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How to Give Intramuscular Injections

Medicines that you give into a muscle are called intramuscular (IM) injections. Sometimes a family caregiver must give IM injections.

The IM injection site and size of the needle will depend on your child’s needs. Always follow the instructions given by your care team.

Supplies needed:

  • Syringe with medicine
  • Needle with safety cover (may come attached to the syringe)
  • ChloraPrep® or alcohol prep pad
  • Sterile bandage or gauze pad
  • Sharps container

Note: Some syringes come prefilled with medicine. You might also have to draw up the medicine. Always check the medication label for the type of medicine and dose. Follow your care team’s instructions.

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 to accommodate the items you need.
  • Throw away the alcohol pad.
  • 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 IM 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, stretch the skin at the injection site so that it is slightly tight. If your child is thin, pinch the tissue between your thumb and index finger. Do not touch the clean injection site itself.
  • Insert the needle at a 90-degree angle (straight up and down) into the injection site.
  • Release the skin.
  • Gently push on the plunger until all the medicine is injected.
  • When all the medicine has been given, remove the needle from the skin at the same angle it went in.
  • Cover the site with a bandage or gauze.
  • If instructed, gently massage the injection site.
  • Do not recap the needle.
  • 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.
Intramuscular injections

Intramuscular injections should be given at a 90-degree angle (straight up and down).

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 after throwing away used supplies.

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

How to choose an IM injection site

Common places to give an IM injection include:

  • Thighs
  • Upper arms
  • Buttocks
  • Hips
Common intramuscular injection sites

Common places to give an IM injection include thighs, upper arms, buttocks, and hips.

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

Choose an injection site that avoids major blood vessels and nerves.

Do not use areas that are:

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


  • 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.

Talk to your care team if you have any questions.

Reviewed: September 2022