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Types of Insulin for Diabetes Treatment

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How Are Doses Scheduled?

Follow your doctor's guidelines on when to take your insulin. The time span between your shot and meals may vary depending on the type you use.

In general, though, you should coordinate your injection with a meal. From the chart on page 1, the "onset" column shows when the insulin will begin to work in your body. You want that to happen at the same time you're absorbing food. Good timing will help you avoid low blood sugar levels.

  • Rapid acting insulins: About 15 minutes before mealtime
  • Short-acting insulins: 30 to 60 minutes before a meal
  • Intermediate-acting insulins: Up to 1 hour prior to a meal
  • Pre-mixed insulins: Depending on the product, between 10 minutes or 30 to 45 minutes before mealtime


Exceptions to Insulin Dosing and Timing

Long-acting insulins aren’t tied to mealtimes. You’ll take detemir (Levemir) once or twice a day no matter when you eat. And you’ll take glargine (Lantus) once a day, always at the same time. But some people do have to pair a long-acting insulin with a shorter-acting type or another medication that does have to be taken at meal time. 

Rapid-acting products can also be taken right after you eat, rather than 15 minutes before mealtime. You can take some of them at bedtime.

For more information about when to take insulin, read the "dosing and administration" section of the insulin product package insert that came with your insulin product, or talk with your doctor.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 12, 2015
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