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December 4, 2000

Blood Tests and Insulin Injections

Question from Orlando, Florida, USA:

My 12 year old daughter was diagnosed with diabetes about nine months ago. She has kept a very positive outlook and manages her diabetes with carbohydrate counting and two insulin shots a day. However, she is frustrated because sometimes the shots hurt a lot and other times not much. Due to this, she lightly "pokes herself" with the needle five to six times prior to giving the shot to try to find a place where it won't hurt as much and won't bruise. She uses her arms, legs, and stomach and is very thin. Is there something she can try to ease her discomfort or does she just have to "buck-up"? I have heard about an injection instrument that does not use needles. Is it worth trying and is it accurate? Any other suggestions?

Answer:

There are a variety of instruments you can use to avoid a needle (or make the needle less scary). You might check out jet injectors, and devices such as the autoject 2, and the Inject-Ease to learn more about these options. Personally, I think the jet injectors are expensive and hard to use — but some folks have had success with them. You may have better success with the other two injectors above.

In addition, there are a variety of ways to do shots so that they are not painful. My patients have had the best success by placing the needle on the skin so that it dents in the skin and holding it there for about two to three seconds. Then if the needle is quickly pushed into the skin after you’ve dented the skin for two to three seconds, you will rarely feel anything at all. The insulin can then be injected by depressing the plunger of the syringe, which is usually not painful at all. Of course, nothing is perfect and the insulin shot will occasionally hurt no matter your technique, but it should be painless for the great majority of the time using this technique.

MSB