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Subcutaneous Injection

(Self-Injection)

How to Say It: Sub-q-TAIN-ee-us In-JEK-shun

Definition

A subcutaneous (sub-Q) injection is a shot that delivers medicine into the layer of fat between the skin and the muscle. It may be given by a healthcare provider or it can be self-injected.

Reasons for Procedure

Some medicines are not as effective when taken by mouth. Sub-Q injections are an easy way to deliver this type of medicine. Some medicines given this way are:

  • Insulin for people with diabetes
  • Some medicines that help prevent blood clots

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Make sure all the items you will need are nearby, such as the syringe, medicine, and cleaning supplies.
  • Wash hands with warm, soapy water. Dry with a clean towel.
  • Select a site. Clean the area (about 2 inches) with a fresh alcohol wipe.
  • Wait for the site to dry.

Giving the Injection

  • Remove the needle cap.
  • Pinch a 2-inch fold of skin between your thumb and index finger.
  • Hold the syringe like a pencil or dart. Insert the needle at a 45-degree angle to the pinched-up skin. (The needle should be fully covered by skin.)
  • Slowly push the plunger all the way down to inject the medicine.
  • Remove the needle from the skin.
  • Apply a bandage if there is bleeding at the site.
  • Put the syringe and needle into a container that is puncture-proof.
  • Dispose of the waste using a service in your area.

Tips

  • Change your site in a regular pattern.
  • Give new injections at least 1.5 inches away from the last site.

Will It Hurt?

Soreness is common after the injection.

Tips to Minimize Injection Pain

  • Inject medicine that is at room temperature.
  • Remove all air bubbles from the syringe before injection.
  • Break through the skin quickly.
  • Do not change the direction of the needle as it goes in or comes out.
  • Do not reuse disposable needles.

If the shots are for your child:

  • The shots will be less painful as your child gets used to them and your technique gets better.
  • Before the injection, press gently in the area to find places where the skin is less sensitive.
  • Change the site of the injections each time to ease discomfort.
  • Distract your child with a book, a toy, or TV. Try breastfeeding or using a pacifier for infants.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if you have any problems, such as:

  • Not being able to give yourself the injection
  • Bleeding
  • A lot of pain
  • Injecting the medicine in the wrong area
  • Fever, rash, or signs of an allergic reaction

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

Clinical Center—National Institues of Health
http://www.cc.nih.gov

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease—National Institutes of Health
http://www.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Diabetes Association
http://www.diabetes.ca

Cancer Care Ontario
http://www.cancercare.on.ca

REFERENCES:

How to give a subcutaneous injection. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsarthritis.org/patient-corner/how-to-give-a-subcutaneous-injection. Accessed November 18, 2021.

Selecting, evaluating, and using sharps disposal containers website. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—National Institure for Occupational Safety and Health website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/97-111. Accessed November 18, 2021.

Last reviewed November 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN  Last Updated: 11/18/2021