How to Self-Administer an Intramuscular (IM) Injection

Jason Markey

A self-administered injection offers flexibility when you need to inject medication but cannot always make it to your doctor or nurse for an appointment. Luckily, the team at Loop Wellness Clinic is invested in your well-being and is glad to show you how to administer an intramuscular (IM) injection properly. But before we dive into the details, it won’t hurt to understand what you’re getting into, right?

What is an IM Injection?

An intramuscular injection delivers medication by injecting it directly into the muscle, where it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. This type of injection is often used for vaccinations and other medicines that need to be rapidly distributed throughout the body.

IM injections are generally more effective than subcutaneous injections, administered into the fatty tissue below the skin. But, the former can be more painful than the latter as the needle must penetrate deeper into the muscle tissue. That said, IM injections are usually given in either of these areas:

  • Upper arm
  • Buttocks
  • Hip
  • Thigh

So, if you wish to give yourself the shot, it’s advisable to choose an easily accessible part – in this case, the thigh will suffice. Here’s how to go about it:

1. Gather Necessary Supplies

Before the procedure, ensure you have everything you need. Typical supplies will include:

  • Medication
  • Soap and water
  • Alcohol swab or sterile gauze
  • Needle and syringe
  • A pair of disposable gloves

While at it, note that needles come in different lengths and widths. For an IM injection, your needle should be at least 1-inch long, although this depends on your body size. The type of syringe also depends on the medication being injected. Consult your healthcare provider if you are unsure about which supplies to use.

2. Prepare the Medication

First, wash your hands thoroughly with soap, water, or alcohol-based hand sanitizer to prevent contamination. If you are using a medication vial, draw the correct amount into the syringe. If you are using a pre-filled syringe, no further preparation is needed.

Then, use a swab to clean the top of the vial before letting it air dry. If the medication is a powder, add the appropriate amount of sterile water to the vial. Swirl the vial until the powder dissolves. Do not shake it, as this can damage the medication.

Next, check that the syringe plunger is in the correct position. The plunger should be fully depressed (pushed down), allowing you to draw the right amount of medication into the syringe.

3. Draw the Medication into the Syringe

Upon preparing the medication, hold the vial upside down in one hand and insert the needle into the vial. Keep the other hand on the vial at all times to prevent the vial and needle from separating.

With the needle in the vial, slowly pull back on the plunger until it reaches the line that indicates the correct amount of medication for your injection. If you accidentally pull too much liquid into the syringe, release a small amount until only the desired amount remains.

Once you have the correct amount in the syringe, remove it from the vial and check for air bubbles. If you notice air bubbles, gently tap the syringe until they rise to the top of the liquid. Then, push on the plunger to release them back into the vial.

4. Prep the Injection Site

Choose an injection site on your thigh as it is easily accessible and has little fleshy tissue. To avoid injecting into a nerve or blood vessel, use your fingers to feel for any lumps or bumps beneath the skin.

If you can’t find a suitable spot, ask your healthcare provider for help. Once you have chosen a site, clean it with an alcohol swab and let it air dry. Ensure the injection site is clean to prevent infection.

5. Administer the Injection

Before self-administering the injection, check that you have all the supplies you need within reach. Next, remove the needle cap and attach the needle to the syringe. Once the needle is secure, gently pull back on the plunger to check for blood. If you notice blood, remove the needle and start again at a new injection site.

If all is well, slowly insert the needle into the chosen injection site at a 90-degree angle. Once the needle is completely inserted, aspirate by gently pulling back on the plunger. Then, slowly inject the medication by pushing on the plunger.

After that, remove the needle and apply pressure to the site with a gauze pad. Hold the pressure for at least two minutes or until the bleeding stops. 

If you use a prefilled syringe, dispose of it immediately after the injection. As for the vial and syringe, remove the needle from the syringe and replace the needle cap. Store the vial and syringe in a safe place for future use.Congratulations! You have just completed your first intramuscular injection. Although they may seem daunting initially, self-injections are relatively simple and safe once you get the hang of them. And with proper preparation and technique, you can give yourself an IM injection like a pro.

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