Subcutaneous (SQ or Sub-Q) injection means the injection is given in the fatty tissue, just under the skin.
A SQ injection is the best way to give yourself certain medicines, including:
SQ injections; Sub-Q injections
Choose your injection site
The best areas on your body to give yourself a SQ injection are:
Upper arms -- at least 3 inches below your shoulder and 3 inches above your elbow, on the side or back
Front of your thighs -- at least 3 inches below your hip and 3 inches above your knee
Belly area -- below your ribs and above your hip bones, at least 2 inches away from your belly button
Your injection site should be healthy, meaning there should be no redness, swelling, scarring, or other damage to your skin or the tissue below your skin.
Change your injection site from one injection to the next. This will keep your skin healthy and help your body absorb the medicine well.
Collect your supplies
You will need a syringe that has a SQ needle attached to it. These needles are very short and thin.
Do not use the same needle and syringe more than once.
If the wrapping or cap on the end of the syringe is broken or missing, discard it in your sharps container. Use a new needle and syringe.
You may get syringes from the pharmacy that are pre-filled with the correct dose of your medicine. Or you may need to fill your syringe with the correct dose from the medicine vial. Either way, check the medicine label to make sure you are taking the correct medicine and the correct dose. Also check the date on the label to make sure the medicine is not outdated.
In addition to a syringe, you will need:
2 alcohol pads
2 or more clean gauze pads
A sharps container
Prepare your injection site
To help prevent infection, wash your hands with soap and running water for at least 1 minute. Thoroughly wash between your fingers and the backs, palms, and fingers of both hands.
Dry your hands with a clean paper towel.
Clean your skin at the injection site with an alcohol pad. Start at the point you plan to inject and wipe in a circular motion away from the starting point.
Let your skin air dry, or wipe it dry with a clean gauze pad.
Prepare your syringe
If you are using a pre-filled syringe:
Hold the syringe like a pencil in the hand you write with, pointing the needle end up.
Take the cover off the needle.
Tap the syringe with your finger to move air bubbles to the top.
Carefully push the plunger up until the dark line of the plunger is even with the line of your correct dose.
If you are filling your syringe with medicine, you will need to learn the proper technique for filling a syringe with medicine.
Inject the medicine
With the hand that is not holding the syringe, pinch an inch of skin and fatty tissue between your fingers.
Quickly insert the needle all the way into your skin at a 90-degree angle.
Release the skin and hold the needle in place.
Pull back on the plunger to check for blood. If you see blood in the syringe:
Remove the needle and put it in your sharps container.
Try another injection site and use a new syringe.
Remember to clean the skin at your new site with alcohol.
If you do not see blood, slowly push the plunger all the way down so that all the medicine goes in.
As you remove the needle, press clean gauze on the site to keep the skin from pulling back.
Put the needle in your sharps container.
Hold pressure on the site for a few seconds to stop any bleeding.
Medication administration. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC. Clinical Nursing Skills. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Prentice Hall; 2011: chap 18.
Giving a subcutaneous injection. Rockville, MD. National Institute of Health Clinical Center. US Dept of Health and Human Services: 2012. NIH publications.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.