How to Give Yourself a Subcutaneous Injection Using a Prefilled Syringe

This information will teach you how to give yourself a subcutaneous (SUB-kyoo-TAY-nee-us) injection (shot) using a prefilled syringe.

A subcutaneous injection is an injection that’s given under your skin. A prefilled syringe is a syringe that’s already filled with medication.

Your nurse will show you how to give yourself the injection. Use the information in this resource to remind yourself how to do it when you’re at home.

Medication Information

Name of medication: ______________________________

Medication schedule: ______________________________

Dose: ____________

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How to Store Your Prefilled Syringes

How you store your prefilled syringes depends on the medication that’s inside. Most medications are stored at room temperature, but some need to be kept in the refrigerator. Your nurse will tell you how to store your syringes and check off one of the boxes below to help you remember.

  • Store your prefilled syringes at room temperature.
  • Store your prefilled syringes in the refrigerator.

Don’t store your prefilled syringes in the freezer or leave them in direct sunlight.

If you have questions about how to store or carry your prefilled syringes when you travel, talk with your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist.

What to do if the medication freezes

If the medication inside the syringe freezes by accident, put it near the front of the refrigerator or on the shelves on the inside of the refrigerator door so it can thaw. If it freezes more than once, don’t use it. Call your doctor or nurse for further instructions.

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How to Give Yourself a Subcutaneous Injection

Gather your supplies

  • 1 prefilled syringe with a clear plastic needle guard attached
  • 1 alcohol pad
  • A disposable sharps container or other puncture-resistant container (such as a laundry detergent bottle)
  • 1 small gauze pad or cotton ball, except if you’re giving yourself an injection of enoxaparin (Lovenox®) or heparin
  • 1 bandage (such as a Band-Aid®)

Get the prefilled syringe ready

  1. If you store your prefilled syringes in the refrigerator, take one out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you give yourself the injection. The medication should be at room temperature when you give the injection.
  2. Choose a clean work area. You can use a bathroom counter if it’s private and there’s enough space. Lay out your supplies in your work area.
  3. Don’t shake the syringe. Shaking it may damage the medication. If the syringe has been shaken, the medication may look foamy and shouldn’t be used.
  4. Check the medication:
    • Name – Make sure the medication name on the syringe matches what your doctor prescribed for you.
    • Expiration date – Make sure the expiration date on the syringe hasn’t passed. If the date has passed, throw away the syringe in the sharps container.
    • Strength – Make sure the strength of the medication is what your doctor prescribed. The strength is listed on the package and syringe.
    • Color – Make sure the medication in the syringe is clear and colorless. Don’t use it if it looks discolored, cloudy, or has crystals in it.

Get the injection site ready

Figure 1. Injection sites
  1. Clean your hands well with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Choose an injection site from one of the following areas (see Figure 1).
    • The outer area of your upper arms
    • Your abdomen (belly), except for the 2-inch area around your belly button
    • The middle of the front of your thighs
    • The upper area of your buttocks (butt)
    Keep track of which area you used last and choose a different area each time. This can help you avoid soreness in any one area. Don’t inject into an area that’s tender, red, bruised, hard, or that has scars or stretch marks.
  3. Fold back any clothing that’s covering the injection site.
  4. Get an alcohol pad ready. You will use it to clean the skin at the injection site just before you give yourself the injection.
    • Pick up the sealed alcohol pad packet. Tear off any 3 edges of the packet.
    • Hold the packet at the edge you didn’t tear. Carefully open the packet to expose the alcohol pad, but don’t take the pad out.
    • Set the open packet on your clean work area.

Give yourself the injection

  1. Take the syringe out of its package.
  2. Hold the syringe around the middle, like a pen or dart. Carefully pull the needle cover straight off (see Figure 2).
    Figure 2. Removing the needle cover
    Once the needle cover is off, don’t set the syringe down. Don’t let anything, including your fingers, touch the needle. If anything touches the needle, you must throw it out in the sharps container and call your doctor or nurse for instructions on what to do next.
  3. Check the syringe for air bubbles.
    • If you’re giving yourself an injection of enoxaparin (Lovenox), there needs to be an air bubble in the syringe. If you don’t see an air bubble, set the syringe to the side and use a different one. Contact your doctor’s office after you give yourself the injection to tell them.
    • If you’re giving yourself an injection of any other medication, there shouldn’t be any air bubbles in the syringe. If there is an air bubble, hold the syringe upright (with the needle pointing up). Gently tap the syringe with your fingers until the air bubbles rise to the top of the syringe, near the needle. Slowly push the plunger up to force the air bubbles out of the syringe.
  4. Pick up the alcohol pad with your free hand. Using firm pressure, clean the skin at the injection site. Start at the center of the site and move outward in a circular motion. Let your skin air dry.
  5. Hold the syringe in the hand you will use to give the injection. Hold it the same way you hold a pen or a pencil when you’re ready to write. Use your other hand to pinch a fold of skin at the injection site.
  6. Put the needle into your skin at a 90-degree angle (straight up and down) in one quick motion (see Figure 3). Insert it so the whole needle is in your skin. Don’t put your thumb on the plunger yet.
    Figure 3. Inserting the needle
  7. After the needle is in your skin, stop pinching your skin. Use your thumb to slowly push the plunger all the way down until all the medication is injected into your skin. You can use whichever thumb is more comfortable.
  8. When the syringe is empty, pull it straight out of your skin.
    • If you gave yourself an injection of enoxaparin (Lovenox) or heparin, don’t press down on the injection site. Put a bandage over the injection site, if needed.
    • If you gave yourself an injection of any other medication, place a cotton ball or gauze over the injection site and press down for several seconds. Put a bandage over the injection site, if needed.
  9. Don’t put the cover back on the needle. Be careful to not poke yourself with the needle. Hold the clear plastic finger grips on the sides of the syringe with one hand and grasp the needle guard with your other hand. Slide the needle guard over the needle until it’s completely covered (see Figure 4). You will hear the needle guard click into place.
    Figure 4. Grasping and sliding the needle guard
  10. Place the syringe and cover into the sharps container. Don’t use a prefilled syringe more than once.

Read the resource How to Store and Dispose of Your Home Medical Sharps for information about choosing a sharps container and disposing of your used syringes and other home medical sharps.

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