By: Kris Admire, Certified Case Manager, Patient Education & Resources Manager and Lori Wells, Pharm.D., Clinical Pharmacist
Many medications that treat complex conditions require injections that you have to give yourself at home. Getting a shot is never fun but having to give it to yourself can be daunting—especially when you’re first getting started. Sometimes the fear of the shot is so bad that patients put off taking their medication, interrupting therapy.
Below are some tips to calm your fears and make self-injection a little bit easier. If you’re avoiding your medication because of anxiety, tell your pharmacist who may be able to offer additional advice. Once you have more practice, self-injection won’t be as scary. Getting started is often the hardest part.
Self-Injection Quick Tips
- Ask your doctor’s office if they have empty syringes or practice pens so you can practice your technique.
- Sit in a comfortable place where you feel more relaxed.
- Apply ice to the injection site about a minute before the injection. Make sure you apply the ice, then clean with alcohol, then inject. If your injection is really painful, ask your doctor if numbing cream might help.
- After cleaning the injection site with alcohol wipes, let it dry completely before injecting to avoid the sting of the alcohol. DO NOT blow on the area to dry it. This defeats the purpose of cleaning the site.
- If your nurse or pharmacist says it is okay, allow your medication to warm to room temperature before injecting. Never use a heat source like warm water or a microwave to warm the medication. Simply take it out of the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes before injecting. Don’t return the medication to the refrigerator once it has warmed to room temperature.
- Give yourself a reward afterward. This can be a sweet treat or an activity you enjoy. While giving yourself the shot, think about your reward and focus on that instead of the injection.
- If you use an auto-injector that makes a noise when injecting your medication, try using headphones to listen to music or use ear plugs so the sound doesn’t startle you and make you tense up. Be sure to check the visual indicator before removing the pen to make sure all of the medication has been injected.
- If you’ve tried these tips and are still uncomfortable, many manufacturers can arrange to send a nurse out for more training or you can call Amber Pharmacy to receive information about the process over the phone.
Reviewing the standard medication injection technique before you get started is another way to better prepare yourself. Below are steps for safe self-injection.
- Wash your hands.
- Clean the skin with an alcohol wipe.
- Let the skin air dry.
- Pinch or stretch the skin (depending on your medication and injection site).
- Take a deep breath to relax.
- Insert the needle using a quick dart-like motion or if using an injection pen, place the end of the pen next to the skin.
- Inject the medication.
- Wait to withdraw the needle until all of the medication is injected.
- Once you withdraw the needle, gently apply pressure with a cotton ball or gauze.
- Apply a Band-Aid.
- Properly dispose of used needles/syringes.
- Document that you took your medication.
Each medication has its own special injection instructions that your pharmacist will go over with you. If you have questions about your injection technique, be sure to ask your pharmacist.
Disposing of Needles/Syringes and Pens
Proper disposal is another important step that shouldn’t be overlooked. To dispose of used needles/syringes or pens, you will need a sharps disposal container. If you don’t have a container already, ask Amber Pharmacy or your medication manufacturer how you can get one. You can also find safe needle disposal locations near you through Safe Needle Disposal.
Used sharps should be immediately placed in a sharps disposal container. These containers are made of puncture-resistant plastic with leak-resistant sides and bottom. They also have a tight-fitting, puncture-resistant lid. If an FDA-cleared container is not available a heavy-duty plastic household container, such as a laundry detergent container can be used as an alternative.
If you have questions about your self-injection technique or would like to speak to a pharmacist about your medication, give Amber Pharmacy a call. We’re always here to help.