Tips For Injecting Insulin in Public: Advice From A Diabetic; A Guide

Posted May 3, 2021 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

Have you ever had to inject insulin in public and felt like everyone was watching you? As someone with type 1 diabetes, I have had to do this on many occasions, but it was not always the most comfortable thing to do.

So, in this article, I provide you with some tips and advice for injecting insulin in public. Here is a quick breakdown before we get into more of the details.

Tips for Injecting Insulin in Public: First, remember that your health is a top priority, and if you have to administer medication in public, you have every right to do so. However, it’s best to be ready to give an explanation to anyone that might question you. Always keep your supplies close by to you, and be sure to dispose of used needles appropriately.

With this in mind, let’s cover why a person with diabetes might need to inject insulin in public in the first place.

My experience and why I have had to inject insulin in public

Tips For Injecting Insulin in Public

Those with diabetes, especially with type 1, cannot always plan out when and where they will need to administer insulin.

For example, there have been multiple times where I have been at a restaurant or other place with crowds and checked my blood sugar. The reading would come back higher than what is considered normal, plus I might have food and drink are on the way.

So, in that moment, I cannot delay administering my insulin. Doing so would result in much higher blood sugar levels, causing irritability and my health to suffer.

Sure, I could go to the bathroom or something to give myself an injection. But let’s be honest, public bathrooms are not sanitary, and it feels just as awkward. In a way, doing that makes it feel like I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing.

Therefore, I would rather just stay at the restaurant table or wherever I’m at and inject my insulin there.

I would rather get weird looks or comments from others than let my health suffer.

The truth of the matter is that I cannot control how people will respond when it comes to injecting insulin in public. However, I will always be respectful and am willing to explain how important this aspect of my life is.

Now that you understand why those with diabetes may have to inject insulin in public, here are some tips to help you out.

Tips for injecting insulin in public

Injecting insulin in public must be done safely and respectfully. Following these tips can ensure you do that and keep others from becoming uncomfortable.

1. Keep your supplies nearby

Whenever you leave your house, you will likely be carrying various supplies related to your diabetes care. These items may include insulin pens, pen needles, syringes, insulin vial, glucometer, test strips, and so on.

When heading into a public place, or anywhere outside of your home for that matter, always keep your supplies nearby, whether they’re in your pockets or backpack. This ensures that you have direct access to them and limits your potential for losing them.

Labeling your supplies with your name and phone number can also ensure you do not permanently lose your equipment.

Make sure that your supplies contain official labels as well. For example, do not peel the label off your insulin pen or vial. This is crucial if you are traveling and dealing with TSA or other security.

2. Be ready to give an explanation

When injecting insulin in public, you may have some individuals question you. I have found that most people who actually confront you aren’t out to demean you but are rather curious.

I have rarely come across someone that is genuinely upset about injecting insulin in front of them.

However, those that do not confront you may still give you funny looks. And let’s be honest, this probably isn’t something they see every day and are, again, just curious. If I catch someone giving me an interesting look, I’ll just respond with, “I have diabetes.”

If someone does say something rude and does not accept your explanation, brush it off. Remember, it’s your health, and it is your top priority in this situation.

3. It’s your right

If you are ever questioned regarding your insulin supplies or your ability to provide care to yourself in a public setting, it’s important to know it is right.

The Americans with Disabilities Act allows those with diabetes to bring their diabetes supplies (insulin pens, needles, lancets, etc.) through security checkpoints. The act also allows for these individuals to use these supplies in a public setting.

There is no rule or anything of that nature that prohibits a person from injecting insulin in public.

4. Your health is number 1

It is important to never let the discomfort or the unfamiliarity of injecting insulin in public deter you from taking care of your health.

Delaying or skipping your insulin dose can cause serious unwanted spikes in your blood sugar, causing irritability and other problems. Make sure you are treating your health as one of your top priorities, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can always ask a worker or manager for wherever you are at if they have a more discreet room other than the bathroom for you to use.

5. Be subtle

It is respectful to consider those around you, and some people cannot stand the sight or thought of needles. Therefore, when you choose to administer insulin in public, try to be subtle.

If you are at a restaurant, going back out to your car to give yourself the shot is one option. Otherwise, you can choose to inject in your stomach or thigh since those sights can be more easily hidden.

With some practice, I was eventually able to give myself a shot under the dinner table, with no one even noticing.

6. Safely throw out used supplies

If you need to dispose of needles, make sure you dispose of them correctly. Many public places have sharps containers in the restrooms.

If necessary, recap the needle and hold onto it until you get home or another location with a sharps container.

7. Ensure the location is safe

Tips For Injecting Insulin in Public

Lastly, you want to make sure that you administer your insulin safely. This means making sure no one is going to walk by and bump you in the arm as you have a needle in your stomach.

If you are in a car, wait until the car is completely stopped to avoid problems with injecting. If you are on a plane, consider talking to the flight attendants about the chances of turbulence in the next few minutes.

What to do if you are uncomfortable

Despite these tips, it can still be uncomfortable to administer insulin in public.

Having an insulin pump can certainly make things more comfortable and convenient. Instead of people seeing a needle, they may just see you programming a device that looks like a phone.

In this case you don’t need to worry about funny looks or rude comments.

However, an insulin pump may not be for everyone.

So, the best thing to do if you are still uncomfortable is look for a more private space when you are in public, whether it’s in the bathroom, car, or a separate room from everyone else. 

Wherever you choose to inject your insulin, make sure it is sanitary and in a safe place.

Final thoughts

After living with diabetes for several years, there are moments where I still feel awkward or uncomfortable when I need to deal with diabetes-related issues in public. This is partly due to how misunderstood this condition is.

Regardless, we hope this has given you some confidence for the next time you have to inject insulin in public.

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