Skye Schulte, MS, MPH
A subcutaneous (sub-Q) injection is a shot that delivers medication into the layer of fat between the skin and the muscle. This type of injection can be given by a healthcare professional, or it can be self-injected.
Some medications need to be injected because they are not effective if taken by mouth.
Subcutaneous injections are an easy way to deliver this type of medication. Examples of medications given by sub-Q injection include:
Any break in the skin can increase the risk of infection. However, following the steps outlined below will help prevent infection.
The needles for sub-Q injection are very thin and short, so pain is usually minimal. You may have some soreness later.
Contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease: National Institutes of Health
NIH Clinical Center
Canadian Diabetes Association
Cancer Care Ontario
Giving a subcutaneous injection. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www.cc.nih.gov/ccc/patient_education/pepubs/subq.pdf. Updated June 2012. Accessed January 13, 2014.
How injection site rotation can help you control your diabetes. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
Updated May 7, 2009. Accessed January 13, 2014.
Selecting, evaluating, and using sharps disposal containers website. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—National Institure for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/97-111. Accessed January 13, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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