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How Do I Give Myself Injections of Prescription Medicine?

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Updated November 30, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

How Do I Give Myself Injections of Prescription Medicine? © Mukund Vasudevan, http://www.flickr.com/photos/mukundvasudevan/327684094/
Question: How Do I Give Myself Injections of Prescription Medicine?
I need to begin medication that requires daily injections I have to administer myself. I’m afraid of doing it wrong and I’m nervous that it will be painful. Is there a “right” way to do this?
Answer:

For many people, daily injections are a necessity. Certain medications are only able to be administered through an injection, making it necessary for many people to have to learn how to administer them. Giving an injection may sound intimidating, but is actually a very simple skill to learn.

There are some things you should know before giving your first injection. Having this checklist of injectable best practices can be helpful for remembering the smaller details, like how to prepare for the injection and how to dispose of the needles. Additionally, reducing the pain of the injection is a common concern of everyone beginning injectable medications. Besides icing the area, there are several other things you can try.

In general, there are two ways an injection can be administered, subcutaneously or intramuscularly. A subcutaneous injection is administered with a tiny needle directly into the fatty tissue below the skin. An intramuscular injection is given into the muscle below that fatty layer and can be a little trickier.

For both types of injections, selecting the correct site and needle size is helpful. During a subcutaneous injection, you will want to place the needle into an area that has extra subcutaneous fat, usually the front of the thigh, back of the arm or lower abdomen. A larger needle gauge (or thinner in width) and length is required. An intramuscular injection requires you to physically mark out the correct site which is usually the buttocks, thigh, hip or arm. Larger needle, both in size and thickness, are necessary to penetrate the deeper muscles.

Subcutaneous Injection Sites
Intramuscular Injection Sites

Make sure to keep an eye out for any side effects which can indicate a possible infection or other complications. Signs to look for include redness, swelling, heat or drainage at the injection site. Report anything you are concerned about to your doctor or nurse.

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