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Subcutaneous Injection


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


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.

Body Tissue Layers
Skin layers

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Injection Sites
Insulin Injection Sites

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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.


  • 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.


Clinical Center—National Institues of Health

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease—National Institutes of Health


Canadian Diabetes Association

Cancer Care Ontario


How to give a subcutaneous injection. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center website. Available at: 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: Accessed November 18, 2021.

Last reviewed November 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN