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Giving a Subcutaneous (Sub-Q) Injection (Single Medication)

Giving yourself a subcutaneous injection (also called a sub-Q injection) means inserting medicine into the fatty areas just under your skin. The needle used for a sub-Q injection is very small and doesn’t cause much pain. Many medicines are given in this way.

Your health care provider has prescribed the amount and times you need to give the medicine.


The name of my medicine is: ______________________

Amount per injection: ____________________________

Times per day: _________________________________

Preparing a work area

  • Put any pets in another room.

  • Wash your hands for 1 to 2 minutes with liquid soap.

  • Clean your area with soap and water.

  • Collect the following items:

    • Your medicine. Keep in mind that some medicine vials must be taken out of the refrigerator at a specific amount of time before you inject them. Read the label and follow the instructions.

    • A sterile disposable syringe (don’t reuse your syringes)

    • Alcohol wipes or swabs

    • A puncture-proof plastic container to dispose of your used needles and syringes

  • Wash your hands again.

Choosing your injection site

  • You may find that the easiest and safest places to inject medicine are these areas:

    • Back of your upper arms

    • Upper thighs

    • Abdomen—but avoid the belly button and waist area

  • If you are very thin, don’t use your abdomen for your injection site, unless your health care provider tells you to.

  • Avoid areas that are red, swollen, or bruised.

  • Don't inject in the same site twice in a row. Choose a site that is at least 2 inches away from your last injection site.

Getting the medicine ready

Hands holding syringe and vial. Syringe is being inserted in vial.

Hand holding syringe and vial. Syringe is underneath vial with plunger pulled out.

  • Check the medicine in the vial for changes in color, debris, or cloudiness.

    • Don’t use the medicine if you notice anything different about the contents of the vial.

    • If you are using insulin, ask your health care provider or pharmacist how it should look in the vial. Some insulin is normally cloudy.

    • Call your provider or pharmacist if you are not sure whether the medicine is safe to use.

  • Remove the cap from the vial. Clean the rubber stopper on top of the vial with an alcohol wipe.

  • Remove the syringe from its package. Don’t use a syringe from a previously opened package or a package with holes in it.

  • Take the cap off the needle. Pull back the plunger, drawing air into the syringe. The amount of air should be the same as the amount of medicine your health care provider has prescribed for you.

  • Push the needle into the rubber stopper of the vial. Once the needle is through the stopper, push the plunger on the syringe so that the air goes into the vial.

  • Keep the needle in the stopper and turn the vial upside down.

  • Keep the tip of the needle in the liquid and pull back on the plunger. The medicine will flow into the syringe.

  • Fill the syringe to your prescribed dose amount.

    • If you get too much, push some medicine back into the vial with the plunger.

    • If you didn’t get enough, continue pulling on the plunger.

  • Check for air bubbles in the syringe.

    • If you see air bubbles in the syringe, gently tap the syringe while the needle is still in the stopper. The air bubbles will move to the top of the syringe.

    • Push the plunger slightly, and the air will go back into the vial.

  • Check to make sure the syringe contains the prescribed amount of medicine. Then pull the needle out of the vial.

Giving the injection

Closeup of abdomen showing hands giving subcutaneous injection in belly fat.


cross section of fatty area just under skin

  • Using an alcohol swab, clean the injection site. Make sure the cleaned area is about 2 inches in diameter.

  • While the injection site dries, double-check that you have the right amount of medicine in your syringe.

  • Place your thumb and forefinger on either side of the clean injection site. Pinch up about 2 inches of skin.

  • Insert the needle at a 45° to 90° angle into your pinched-up skin. Do this quickly; it will hurt less. Note: The best angle will depend on your body type, the length of the needle, and the injection site. Your healthcare provider will help you find which angle is best for you.

  • Be sure to insert the needle with the bevel up and insert all the way to the end of the needle. This will help you inject the medicine correctly.

  • Release the skin, holding the syringe in place.

  • If your health care provider has told you to pull back on the plunger to check for blood, then do so.

    • If you see blood in the syringe, don’t inject. This means that the needle has entered a blood vessel. Withdraw the needle, select a new injection site, and repeat the steps above for preparing the site.

    • If there is no blood in the syringe, continue with the injection. To inject the medicine, slowly push the plunger all the way down.

  • If you are injecting insulin, do not pull back on the plunger to check for blood. Inject the insulin by slowly pushing the plunger all the way down.

After the injection

  • Remove the needle from your skin and hold a gauze or cotton ball on the injection site for a few seconds. Don’t rub the injection site.

  • If you see blood or clear fluid, press on the injection site with the gauze or cotton ball for 5 to 8 minutes. Don’t rub while pressing. Apply a bandage if you wish.

  • Don’t recap the needle.

  • Put the empty syringe in the disposal container.

  • Call your local waste company or public health department to find out the proper way to dispose of used syringes.

  • Record the site, date, and time of each injection.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider right away if you are unable to give your injection or have any of the following:

  • Bleeding at the injection site for more than 10 minutes

  • Injection of medicine in the wrong area

  • Injection of too much medicine

  • Rash at the injection site

  • Redness, warmth, swelling, or drainage at the injection site

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.0°C), or higher

  • Signs of allergic reaction. These include trouble breathing, hives, or rash.


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