How to Give an Injection at Home

Home injection saves you the time and expense of going to the doctor's office to get a shot. This is especially useful for B12 or magnesium.


For typical home injection, there are two different depths: subcutaneous (SubQ) and intramuscular (IM). Subcutaneous injection is delivered to the fat under the skin. Intramuscular injection is delivered to a large muscle, and is deeper than a subcutaneous shot.


B12 shots are best delivered to fat (subcutaneous), as there is less blood flow, and so the B12 is released slower and gives more sustained effects, although they can also be given IM in the upper arm. Magnesium is best given into muscle for faster release into the bloodstream.

For subcutaneous shots, the fat of the abdomen is commonly used for self-injection, but the fat in the hip area can be used as well. Intramuscular shots can be given into the hip at the side, or in the upper arm. Any shot with a volume over 1 ml (1 cc) is best given in the hip area (see diagram), as the larger muscle can handle a larger volume.

Needle choice:

For SubQ, a needle length of 5/8 inches or shorter is acceptible. For IM, the typical length is 1 1/4 inches, although a 1 inch needle can work.

Gauge is the thickness of the needle, and the larger numbers translate into a smaller needle. Insulin needles, which are very small, are usually 27 to 31 ga. For home injection, a 25 or 27 gauge needle will work, and the 27 ga seems to hurt less going in.

Preparing the shot:

Unless your injection comes in a pre-filled syringe, you will need to prep the shot by filling the syringe from the vial. 20 to 25 ga needles can be used for drawing from the vial.

First, remove the plastic cap cover from the vial if needed, and clean the rubber top of the vial with alcohol.

Then, take the cap off the needle and fill the syringe with air. The volume of air should roughly equal the volume of the medication to be injected.

Then, with the vial held upside down in one hand, hold the syringe in your other hand and carefully push through the top of the vial with the needle.

Make sure the tip of the needle is in the liquid of the vial, not in the air bubble above the liquid. Push the air in the needle into the vial, and draw up a little more than the correct amount of liquid. Let any air bubbles in the syringe work their way to the top, then push this air into the vial until you get the correct volume in the syringe.

Pull the syringe out and put the vial away. If recapping the needle is desired, put the cap on a clean surface and carefully aim the needle into the cap. Once the needle is mostly into the cap, you can then just pick everything up and carefully push the cap back on.

Switching Needles:

Shorter, thicker needles are sometimes used for drawing from the vial, and longer, thinner needles used for giving the injection, especially if it is IM. SubQ shots with an insulin syringe typically use the same needle for both drawing and injection. IM shots may be more comfortable with a change of needles. If you need or desire to switch needles, you can do so.

Giving the shot:

Select the site and clean it with an alcohol pad.

Holding the syringe like a dart, jab it in with a quick motion. This fast insertion is easier for someone to perform on another person. For self-injection, a slow insertion is an alternative: bring the needle to rest on the skin, and slowly increase pressure until the needle breaks the skin. Then, push the needle to the desired depth. Once the needle is at the depth desired, change your grip as needed and inject as fast as is comfortable.

When the injection is complete, pull the needle out with a quick short motion.

Apply a bandaid to the injection site as needed.

Dispose of any used needles/syringes in a Sharps container, or, use an empty plastic vitamin bottle (this must be properly labelled as a sharps container, with the warning not to recycle it). The home made sharps container can then be tightly closed and can go in the trash when full.

Non-sharp waste can simply go in the trash.

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