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A diabetes debate: should you inject insulin in public?

Debate: should you inject insulin in public? Why, or why not?

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Insulin injections have been a touchy topic always, but lately, it seems to be gaining steam.

No matter what type you have, diabetes comes with a lot of judgment.

If you’re type 1, it might be frustrating that people misunderstand your incurable, autoimmune disease.

If you’re type 2, you might be frustrated when people think you’re lazy, or you did this to yourself.

Aside from misconceptions, people with diabetes deal with all kind s of judgment every day.

Insulin injections have recently become a hot topic among people with, and without diabetes, but first, here’s some background.

Why do people inject insulin?

Insulin is necessary for both type 1 (insulin-dependent) and type 2 (insulin resistant) diabetes. Injecting insulin allows your body to absorb the hormone and keep your blood glucose stable.

Can’t you just inject in the bathroom or your car? Why do you need to do it in public?

Oftentimes, people with diabetes can’t plan where they’re going to be when the need to take insulin arises.

People who have insulin pumps are constantly taking insulin around you, but you may never notice.

Someone who takes their insulin through an insulin pen, or with a syringe may have to be less discrete.

Taking your insulin in a restroom is honestly just really gross. As someone who wants to watch out for germs, its really important to inject your insulin in a clean area you feel comfortable in.

Think about it – would you want to take your medication in a dirty public restroom? Odds are, you wouldn’t.

How to handle a public insulin injection

I used to be embarrassed to inject in public, and actually scarred from doing it.

The first time I ever injected insulin in public, I was at a restaurant. I did my best to be discrete, but someone complained to the manager anyway.

I was made to feel like a criminal, or like I was taking drugs, when all I was really doing was practicing self-care, and making sure that I observed my health.

That made me feel awful, and for a long time I would adjust taking my insulin around the comfort of others or change the time I took it to avoid any drama (hint: that’s bad).

I learned some ways to find a happy medium with injections. I don’t hide them anymore. My pen needs are tiny, and it’s pretty hard to notice, but here are some helpful tips to public injections.

  • If you’re approached, explain what you’re doing and why – try to stay calm and educate the person opposite of you. Chances are, they just don’t know.
  • Try not to make a scene about it. Sometimes people are afraid of what they don’t know. Lots of people are afraid of needles, and just seeing one freaks them out. Try to take your injections out of the line of sight. One way I do that is reserving my thigh for injections if I must do it in sight. It’s usually easy to get it out of sight under a table, or out of view.
  • Try to take the moment in stride. I know it’s really hard when someone makes a judgemental comment about something they don’t know anything about. Try to use that moment as a way to learn how others may react.
  • Bottom line, you must take care of you. Your body tells you when it’s time to do that, and you shouldn’t ignore it.

How I feel about public insulin injections.

By now you can probably tell that I don’t think anyone should shy away from taking insulin in public.

There is nothing shameful about taking a moment to take care of your diabetes, and no one should make you feel like there is.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how comfortable you are with taking your injections in public. Whatever you decide, it’s for the best.

Just remember that you don’t need to feel any shame for taking care of your diabetes when your body needs you to.

About Mila

Hi! I'm Mila.

I’m earning my Master’s degree in Applied nutrition.

I’m a journalist and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach living with  LADA (Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults, a slow-progressing form of autoimmune Type 1 diabetes) I love food, travel, and my kitchen, and teaching you about diabetes self-management.

I’m here to help you live your best life possible diabetes by showing you how to create simple, blood-sugar friendly and delicious meals and tips on diabetes self-care.

Be sure to download my FREE Diabetes Community App Glucose Guide, or reach out for FREE 1:1 diabetes health and habit coaching.

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6 Responses

  1. The thing is, I can’t not wear a singlet under all my clothes tucked into my high waisted pants. I feel really uncomfortable when I don’t wear high waisted pants or no singlet under my clothes. So when I inject I basically have to undress myself in public and idk what to do. I’ve just literally stopped eating when I don’t have access to a bathroom and I’ve lost so much weight from it and I’m already underweight idk what to do.

  2. I’ve just started making the shift from trying to hide injecting to doing it in public, which is a big relief in some ways. I’m feeling fine now with doing it in restaurants or, if outside, finding a quiet spot on the street. But there are still some situations I’m not sure how to handle – like if you’re sitting right next to somebody you don’t know and don’t have any opportunity to get out soon, like maybe on an airplane, or on a very crowded train. Or sitting in a meeting with people you don’t know where it would definitely draw the attention of the group, but announcing to the whole thing in advance also seems a bit awkward. What do other people do in those kind of situations?

    1. If I’m around someone I don’t know, I genuinely ask them if they’re ok with needles and tell them what I’m about to do. It makes things so much less awkward and accusatory later on. Most people can’t tell insulin from drugs, which is kind of insane, but you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve been accused of doing something wrong.

  3. I’m type 1 since 2016 and it never crossed my mind that someone would have the nerve to call me out on a public injection. Reading your post and seeing that getting the cops called in is actually a thing that happens, I’m even prouder that I don’t hide from injecting in public. Maybe I’m not the embarrassable type; I’d laugh so hard at the situation that it would actually make my day.

    1. Seriously! It’s honestly crazy how many people don’t know, or give dirty looks, judgement (or even going as far as calling someone to deal with it.” like would I really be taking illegal drugs at the table? LOL!

  4. I completely understand that insulin is medicine. The issue is the delivery system … a needle. I would be afraid that some well-meaning but uninformed person would call the police which would result in unnecessary embarrassment. Personally, I would find a secluded spot — probably the rest room — to inject the medication. It’s not ideal but maintaining your health is the more important concern.

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