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What Is A Subcutaneous Injection?

What Is A Subcutaneous Injection?

A subcutaneous injection is administered just under the skin, usually to deliver medication. Because this fatty tissue is in the deepest layer of the skin (known as the hypodermis), it allows for the slow absorption of drugs. This option is a safe way to administer medications for some conditions.

Learn more about these injections and how to prepare and perform them here.

Why Administer A Subcutaneous Injection?

A subcutaneous injection is an effective way to administer medications for treating medical conditions. Drugs such as insulin must be absorbed slowly into the body to work effectively. That’s why administering them with a needle that penetrates the fatty tissue facilitates the delivery of the drug and minimizes the chance of reaction.

Types of Subcutaneous Injections

There are several types of subcutaneous injections. Some syringes come prefilled, while for others, you must draw the medication from a vial.

Subcutaneous Vaccine Injections

You cannot take some vaccines orally, so they must be injected. The following vaccines are delivered to the body through subcutaneous injection: MMR, Varicella, MMRV, MPSV4, PPSV23, and IPV.

Subcutaneous Drug Injections

The following medications are delivered into the body through injections: insulin, heparin, epinephrine, opioids, fertility drugs, autoimmune medications, and allergy medications. Other medications delivered via subcutaneous injection are specific hormones, pain medicines such as morphine, anticoagulants, and some medications you administer at home.

How To Give the Injection

Thoroughly wash your hands using warm water and soap. Clean between your fingers, on the back of your hands, under your fingernails, and around your wrists for a minimum of 20 seconds. Dry every part of your hands, wrists, and lower arms well with a clean paper towel.

Before the Injection

Choose an appropriate site for the subcutaneous injection. Common areas for this injection type are the umbilical region of the abdomen approximately two inches from the navel, the top of the buttocks or thigh, and the upper side or back of the arm.

Get All of the Supplies That You Need

Clean a space to put all the supplies you need to administer an injection. Gather the following items before giving the shot:

  • Syringe, needle, and medication. Double-check to ensure you have the right medicine
  • Alcohol pads to clean the injection site
  • Cotton ball or gauze to press to injection site after the shot
  • Needle and syringe disposal directly after the shot to make sure it cannot puncture anything when thrown away
  • Bandaid for the injection site

Preparing the Injection

  • To prepare the injection, remove the needle cap
  • Pierce the vial with the needle
  • Turn the medication vial upside down and pull the syringe plunger back to measure the correct medication amount
  • Tap the syringe to remove air bubbles

Find a Spot and Clean It

The best spots for subcutaneous injection are the abdominal area, the back of or upper side of the arm, thigh, or buttock. Clean the chosen site well with a cotton pad and alcohol.

How do I choose the best place for a subcutaneous injection?

There are several places where you can give the injection. The best spot for administering the injection is where it is most comfortable to you from among those listed. Many doctors recommend changing injection sites each time you must give yourself a shot.

Giving Yourself the Injection

Take some deep breaths and relax before the injection. Remember that practice makes perfect, and you will get better at injections over time:

  • Use your thumb and pointer finger to pull the skin away from the site
  • Poke the needle directly into the skin at a 90 or 45-degree angle
  • Slowly push the contents of the syringe into the subcutaneous skin as you hold the top layer of skin up
  • When all of the medicine has been dispensed, pull the needle out. Engage the safety mechanism for the needle and throw away the entire syringe in a safe container.
  • Use gauze or a cotton ball to clean the injection site and remove any residual blood.
  • Dispose of any remaining trash

Possible Complications

Fortunately, complications from subcutaneous injections are slim. Some possible complications include developing an infection at the injection site, having redness or swelling, having the needle break in the skin, or hitting a nerve. If any of these happen during or after an injection, contact your medical provider immediately.

When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider?

Contact your doctor when you notice the following:

  • You develop a fever or rash
  • You cannot give yourself an injection
  • There is bleeding other than a minor amount at the injection site
  • You experience a lot of pain at the site
  • You inject the medication at the wrong site
  • You think you have an emergency

Frequently Asked Questions About Subcutaneous Injections

Is a subcutaneous injection painful?

A subcutaneous injection might be painful if you’re not accustomed to it. Here are some ways to reduce the pain:

  • Place some ice on the injection site for a few minutes before injecting the medicine
  • Use numbing cream on the injection site
  • Distract yourself with a movie or your phone
  • Give a baby a pacifier before the shot
  • Hug a small child to yourself tightly and give the shot when they take a deep breath

What are the risks of a subcutaneous injection?

While the risks are minimal, they do happen from time to time. Swelling, redness, rash, fever, breaking the needle in the skin, or hitting a nerve are the most common. Your doctor will explain when to contact them for injection problems.

If you think you have a medical emergency that needs immediate help, call 911. This action is the best way to get the aid you need quickly.

How do I get rid of used syringes and needles?

Keeping a designated container nearby to dispose of the needles and syringes is a necessary step. This receptacle should be a container that cannot be opened or reached easily by children or others.

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