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Every child who has diabetes uses a different type of insulin at a dose that is right for them. The care team will help you figure out which type of insulin and dose is right for your child.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a medication used to manage diabetes. It helps to control blood sugar levels. In this handout, you will learn about different types of insulin and how they work.

Types of insulin

Insulin type

Common names

How long it works

How it is given

Human or regular insulin



  • Starts to lower blood sugar within 30-60 minutes (half an hour to one hour)
  • Most active 2-4 hours after injection
  • Works for up to 6-8 hours after injection
  • Injection or IV
  • Usually given at the hospital if you stay overnight

Intermediate-acting insulin

NPH (Neutral Protamine Hagedorn insulin)

  • Starts to work within 1 1/2 - 4 hours
  • Most active 4-12 hours after injection
  • Lasts for up to 24 hours
  • Injection or insulin pen

Long-acting insulin

Insulin glargine (also called Lantus® or Basaglar®)

Insulin detemir (also called Levemir®)

Insulin degludec (also called Tresiba®)

  • Insulin glargine: Lasts up to 24 hours
  • Releases insulin slowly and steadily throughout the day and night
  • Typically given at bedtime. In some cases, also given in the morning
  • Insulin degludec can last up to 42 hour. The exact time can vary.
  • Injection or insulin pen

Rapid-acting insulin

Lispro (Humalog® or Admelog®)

Aspart (Novolog®)

Glusilin (Apidra®)

  • Starts to work in 15 minutes
  • Most active 30 minutes to 3 hours after injection
  • Works for up to 3-5 hours
  • Injection or insulin pen

Rev. 11/2018. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.