542 Health Care Skills
How to Give an Injection
Injections are not needed often. Many medicines sometimes given by injection are
safer when given by mouth. But it can be necessary to give an injection:
• when the medicine does not come in a form that can be given by mouth.
• when the person cannot swallow or keep medicine down without vomiting.
• in some emergencies, such as bleeding or infections after childbirth or abortion.
It is important to give injections properly. They can be dangerous when given in
the wrong place, in the wrong way, or without properly cleaning the syringe, hands,
and injection site. Carefully follow all of the instructions on ‘How to inject,’ page 544.
Needles and syringes that are not cleaned and disinfected properly can pass a disease
like HIV or liver disease (hepatitis) to another person. They can also cause a serious
infection at the injection site or in the blood.
• Never use the same needle and syringe to inject more than one person without
cleaning and disinfecting the needle and syringe first. Follow the steps on page 528.
• After the needle has boiled, do not touch it with anything that has not been disinfected.
• If needles are for one-time use only, see page 528 for how to dispose of them safely.
Where to give an injection
There are 2 basic kinds of injections:
• injections that go into a muscle (intramuscular or IM).
• injections that go into the fatty layer under the skin (subcutaneous).
Where you choose to inject depends on how much medicine you need to inject, the
size of the person receiving the injection, and what kind of medicine you are using.
For information about how to give both kinds of injections, see page 544.
Most of the medicines in this book that need to be injected should go into the
muscle. IM injections can be given in a large muscle in the buttock, upper arm, or
thigh. It is best to use the buttock or thigh instead of the arm if:
• the amount to inject is more than 2 ml (2 cc). (But you should never inject more
than 3 ml (3 cc) in a single dose. Use 2 injections instead.)
• the medicine is likely to cause pain when injected.
• the person being given the injection is very small or poorly nourished.
In the buttock, always
inject in the upper,
In the upper
arm, keep the
2 finger widths
down from the
bone at the edge
of the shoulder.
In the thigh, inject into
the upper outer part.
(This is the best way
to inject babies.)
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012