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How to Give Subcutaneous Injections

Medicines you give just below the skin are called subcutaneous (SC) or SubQ injections. These injections (shots) are given into fatty areas of the body called injection sites.

Your care team will teach you how to give the shot and allow you to practice before you begin giving subcutaneous injections to your child. Always follow the instructions given by your care team. 

Illustration of a subcutaneous injection

A subcutaneous (SubQ) injection is a shot to give medicine just below the skin.

Clean your work area and gather supplies 

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds and dry with a paper towel or a clean cloth towel. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 
  • Use an alcohol prep pad or disinfecting wipe to clean a flat surface large enough for the items you need.    
  • Throw away the alcohol pad or wipe. 
  • Gather the supplies and open them onto your work area. 

The supplies you need are:  

  • Syringe with medicine and needle attached  
  • ChloraPrep® or alcohol prep pad 
  • Sterile gauze pad 
  • Sharps container 

Prepare the injection site 

  • Choose the injection site. 
  • If using a ChloraPrep® pad: 
    • Open the applicator and remove it from the package. Do not touch the sponge tip. 
    • Pinch the wings of the applicator to release the solution. You should hear a pop. 
    • Press the ChloraPrep® pad on the skin 3 times.  
    • Clean the area where the needle will be inserted using a back and forth, up and down motion for 30 seconds. 
    • Let the skin air dry for 30 seconds. Do not blow on the cleaned skin.  
  • If using an alcohol pad: 
    • Open the pad. 
    • Clean the area for 8 seconds. 
    • Let the skin dry for 15 seconds. Do not blow on the cleaned skin.  

Give the medicine

  • Pick up the syringe. 
  • If there is a safety cover, pull back on the cover toward the syringe.  
  • Pull the needle cap straight off the needle (do not twist). Set the cap aside. 
  • Hold the syringe between the thumb and first finger.  
  • Using the other hand, pinch the cleaned skin and the surrounding fatty area between your thumb and first finger. Be careful not to touch the injection site.
  • Insert the needle into the skin quickly at a 45-degree angle or 90-degree angle (straight up and down). Your care team will teach you the correct angle to use for your child.
  • Gently press the plunger to inject the medicine.
  • Take the needle and syringe out, in a quick single motion.
  • Cover the site with a bandage or gauze.
  • If your needle has a safety cover, use it right away.  
    • Place your thumb on the finger pad area of the safety cover.  
    • Push the cover forward over the needle until you hear or feel it lock.  

Dispose of used supplies properly

  • Place the needle and syringe into a patient sharps container.
  • Dispose of other supplies in the regular trash.
  • Clean your hands again after throwing away used supplies.

Learn how to get rid of used needles and other sharps safely.  

How to choose a SubQ injection site

Common places to give a subcutaneous injection include:

  • Back of the upper arms
  • Thighs
  • Abdomen (except for the
    navel and the waistline)
Illustration of subcutaneous injection sites

Common places to give a subcutaneous injection include back of the upper arms, thighs, and abdomen (except for the navel and the waistline).

Use a different site each time to prevent irritation or scars. Keep track of when and where you give an injection.  

Do not use areas that are: 

  • Bruised 
  • Tender 
  • Swollen 
  • Scarred from surgeries or injury  

Ask your care team if you have any questions about where to give the shot.

Reminders

  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  
  • Do not use any medicine that has: 
    • Changed color 
    • Flecks 
    • Specks  
  • Do not use the syringe if the sterile part is touched.  
  • Clean the injection site before inserting the needle. 
  • Always follow the instructions given by your care team.   


Reviewed: September 2022