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Discharge Instructions: Giving Yourself an Intramuscular (IM) Injection

Your health care provider has prescribed a medication that must be given by intramuscular (IM) injection. IM injections use a needle and syringe to deliver medication to large muscles in your body. IM injections are usually given in the thigh, hip, or upper arm.

You were shown how to give yourself an IM injection in the hospital. This sheet will help you remember those steps when you are at home.



Name of medication: ________________________


Amount per injection: ________________________


Times per day: _____________________________

Gather your supplies

  • Medication

  • Syringe

  • 2 needles (one for drawing the medication from the vial, another for giving the injection)

  • Alcohol pads

  • 2" by 2" gauze pad

  • A puncture-proof container to dispose of your needle and syringe (large glass jar with a lid).

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after all IM injections.

Prepare your medication

  • Be sure you have the right medication. Look at the label on the medication bottle and make sure it matches the name of the medication you were prescribed.

  • Check the expiration date. If it is past this date, throw the medication away.

  • Don’t use the medication if it is discolored or has anything floating in it.

  • Clean the top of the bottle each time with an alcohol pad. Don’t touch the top of the bottle after it has been cleaned with the alcohol.

Prepare your needle and syringe

  • Attach the needle to the syringe — with the needle cap still on.

  • Take the needle cap off the needle and pull back on the end of the syringe (plunger).

  • Draw air into the syringe equal to the amount of medication you need to take.  Be careful. Don’t touch the needle.

  • Insert the needle into the rubber stopper on top of the medication bottle and push down on the plunger to push the air into the bottle (step 1).

  • Leave the syringe in the bottle. Now turn the bottle upside down so that the bottle is on top and the syringe is on the bottom (step 2) .

  • Make sure that the tip of the needle is below the level of the liquid. Pull down on the plunger. This will cause the medication to fill the syringe (step 3).

  • Stop pulling the plunger when the right amount of medication is in the syringe, but don’t remove the needle from the bottle.

Remove any air bubbles

  • Check the syringe for air bubbles.

  • To remove air bubbles, tap the barrel of the syringe with your finger or knuckle. This will move any bubbles to the top of the syringe (step 4).

    • Push the plunger up to remove the air bubbles from the syringe.

    • Pull down on the plunger once more to fill the syringe with the amount of medication.

    • Repeat these steps until all air bubbles are gone.

  • Remove the needle from the bottle.

  • If your health care provider has told you to replace the needle with a new one, then do so as instructed.

Select and prepare an injection site

  • Select a site that avoids major blood vessels and nerves. You were shown these sites in the hospital.

  • Each time you do an injection, change sites. Avoid using the same site over and over. It is a good idea to keep a written injection record including the date, time, and site of each injection.

  • Avoid areas that are bruised, scarred, painful, or swollen.

  • Clean the injection site with alcohol and let it dry before injecting.

  • Hold the syringe like a dart. Use your other hand to stretch the skin flat around the injection site, but don’t touch the actual injection site.

Inject the medication

  • Insert the needle at a 90° angle into the prepared injection site. Use a quick downward motion (step 5).

  • Push down on the plunger at a steady rate injecting all the medication in the syringe.

  • Remove the needle by pulling the syringe and needle up and away from your body.

  • Release the stretched skin.

  • Press a 2" x 2" gauze pad onto the site.

  • Hold the pad tightly for a minute.

  • Check the area for redness, bleeding, or bruising.

  • Apply a bandage to the site if needed.

After the injection

  • Never recap a needle you have used for an injection.

  • Throw the needle and syringe away in your puncture-proof container. Make sure the needle and syringe fit easily in the container and that the needles point down. Never force a syringe into the container or put your fingers into the container. Take the full container back to your health care facility for correct biohazard disposal.

  • Dispose of all other supplies in the trash.

  • Wash your hands again.


Medicine that comes in a container for a single dose should be used only 1 time. If you use the container a second time, it may have germs in it that can cause illness. These illnesses include hepatitis B and C. They also include infections of the brain or spinal cord (meningitis and epidural abscess).

Follow-up care

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


When to seek medical care

Call your health care provider right away if you have any of the following:

  • Needle that breaks off in the injection site

  • Problems that keep you from giving yourself the injection

  • Bleeding at the injection site that won’t stop

  • Severe pain at the injection site

  • Medication injected into the wrong area

  • Rash or swelling at the injection site

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fever above 101.0°F (38.3°C)


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