Easy-to-read information about insulin syringes.
Although insulin pens are generally more common than insulin syringes, insulin syringes with needles can be used for giving insulin to young children, for insulin not available in cartridge form and when mixing 2 insulins together.
There are 3 different-sized syringes available in New Zealand: 0.3mL, 0.5 mL and 1 mL. The strength of all insulin in New Zealand is 100 units/mL, so a 0.3 mL syringe has doses of up to 30 units.
A bigger syringe is used for larger doses. If you mix insulins in the syringe, you may prefer a larger syringe (0.5 mL or 1 mL) to allow for ease of mixing.
- Syringes can have different-sized needles attached to them. Needle sizes are measured by their thinness (gauge) and their length (in mm), eg, 31 gauge x 8 mm.
- The higher the gauge, the thinner the needle, eg, a 31 gauge needle is thinner than a 28 gauge needle.
- People who use syringes more than once may prefer a stronger (lower gauge number) needle.
- If the syringe is being used for a young child the finer, shorter (31 gauge x 8 mm) needle may be preferred.
Syringe and needle sizes available in New Zealand
- 0.3 mL with 29 gauge x 12.7 mm needle
- 0.3 mL with 31 gauge x 8 mm needle
- 0.5 mL with 29 gauge x 12.7 mm needle
- 0.5 mL with 31 gauge x 8 mm needle
- 1 mL with 29 gauge x 12.7 mm needle
- 1 mL with 31 gauge x 8 mm needle.
If you are unsure of which syringe and needle size is best for you, talk to your diabetes nurse, pharmacist or doctor.
A new needle should be used with every injection. In New Zealand you can have 200 subsidised (free) needles on a prescription. If you need more than 200 needles in 3 months, you will need another prescription.
Which device: syringe or pen?
The decision to use syringes or pens is a personal one. Here are some points to think about:
- Insulin pens are easy to carry around, and make measuring and injecting your insulin easier. Injections can be administered discretely. Most pens hold 300 units of insulin and can give up to 60–80 units at a time. Most insulins are available as pens.
- Syringes hold up to 100 units. They may be best if you use mixed insulins or if you're giving insulin to a child.
Short and rapid-acting insulins can also be given by a portable insulin pump. This delivers continuous insulin and you can give extra insulin at meal times. These pumps can be useful for people who have hypoglycaemia often or if their blood glucose levels are difficult to control. There are certain criteria for funding and there are many options available.
In New Zealand, insulin pumps are generally only recommended for people with Type 1 diabetes. For more information, see the following:
Insulin pumps with diabetes Starship NZ
Sub-cutaneous insulin infusions (insulin pumps) Ministry of Health, NZ
Insulin syringes Diabetes NZ