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Onset is the length of time before insulin reaches the bloodstream and begins lowering blood glucose. Insulins with long onset (2 to 4 hours) are typically the long-acting insulins, or those that have long duration. Those insulins with the shortest onset times (30 minutes) belong to the fast-acting category, or those with relatively short duration. The intermediate-acting insulins have a 1-2 hour onset with 8-12 hours of duration.

Among the fast-acting insulins, those based on human insulin, also called Analog insulins, such as Humalog, Novolog, NovoRapid and Apidra, have the fastest onsets.

Working with Onset

A predictable, slow onset is a necessary part of working with overlap. Insulins with short onset frequently peak in less than 4 hours after injection. Food can be given to extend onset and peak response.


See also peak, duration, and carryover.

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