Its easy for patients and caregivers to learn how to perform a subcutaneous, or under-the-skin injection with an autoinjector.
This type of injection is also called a subq injection, pronounced “sub Q” (“sub cue”).
Dr. Andy Thompson, a rheumatologist, will demonstrate an injection in the video lesson featured on this page. This lesson is applicable a variety of medications used in rheumatology that are available in an autoinjector.
A subcutaneous injection involves poking a small needle just under the skin to deliver medicine into the “fatty tissue” below.
This type of injection does not deliver medicine straight into the blood. It is absorbed by the small blood vessels under the skin. This is similar to how medication is absorbed when you take a pill or tablet: small blood vessels in the stomach or bowel absorb the medication.
Parts of an autoinjector
Each syringe has 3 basic parts:
- A needle cap (which is removed)
- A medication window which shows the medicine
- An activator button
Step-by-Step: How to Inject
There are four basic steps to performing a subcutaneous injection with an autoinjector:
Step 1: Gather your Supplies
We’ve prepared a special “injection placemat” that you can download and print to help make sure that you’ve got all of the necessary supplies:
Place your “injection mat” on a clean table or surface.
Gather your supplies, you’ll need:
- Your autoinjector
- An alcohol swab
- A clean gauze or tissue
- A puncture proof “sharps container” to dispose of the used syringe.
If your autoinjector has been in the refrigerator it’s a good idea to let it warm up for 30 minutes. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
If you’re missing any of the required supplies, talk to your local pharmacist.
Step 2: Choose and prepare the injection site
It’s important to start by washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water.
A subcutaneous injection can be given into the thigh, the abdomen, or the upper arm. It’s best to choose a different site for each injection at least a few centimetres (an inch) away from a previous injection.
You can easily inject into your abdomen or thighs on your own, but you’ll probably need help from another person if you want to inject into your upper arms.
It’s a good idea to rotate your injection sites. For example, if you had to take weekly injections, this week you might place the injection in your thigh, and next week to your abdomen. If someone else is performing the injection on you, you can also use your upper arms.
If you’re injecting into your abdomen stay away from the 2 inches around your belly button.
Don’t inject into an area that is tender, bruised, red, hard, or one that has scars or stretch marks.
You can clean your chosen injection site with an alcohol swab.
Step 3: Inject the medication
- Remove the needle cap from the autoinjector.
- Place the autoinjector on the injection site at a 90 degree angle.
- Push the autoinjector firmly against the skin to “unlock” the device.
- Press the button on the autoinjector to activate the device. The injector will now inject the medicine under the skin. Some autoinjectors will “click” when the injections are finished. It’s best to count to 15 slowly.
- At the count of 15, remove the autoinjector and look at the medication window. It should have changed colour.
- Apply pressure with a cotton gauze or tissue for about 10 seconds.
It’s normal to see a tiny drop of blood.
Step 4: Dispose of the syringe
It’s important to dispose of used sharp syringes in a proper container, often called a Sharps Container. These containers can be found at your local pharmacy.
Don’t ever put the needle cap back on a needle as you or someone else may accidentally poke themselves with it. Simply take the used autoinjector and place it in the Sharps Container.
Store your Sharps Container in a safe place out of reach of small children. When the container is 2/3 full, tape the lid closed and discard of it as instructed by your local pharmacist.
If you have any questions or concerns please talk to your doctor or your nurse.