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How to give a heparin shot

Your health care provider prescribed a blood thinning medicine called heparin. It has to be given as a shot at home.

A nurse or other health professional will teach you how to prepare the medicine and give the shot. They will watch you practice and answer your questions. You may take notes to remember the details. Keep this sheet as a reminder of what you need to do.

Getting Ready

To get prepared:

  • Gather your supplies: heparin, needles, syringes, alcohol wipes, medicine record, and container for used needles and syringes.
  • If you have a pre-filled syringe, make sure you have the right medicine at the right dose. Do not remove the air bubbles unless you have too much medicine in the syringe. Skip the section on "Filling the Syringe" and go to "Giving the Shot."

Filling the Syringe

Follow these steps to fill the syringe with heparin:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, and dry them well.
  • Check the heparin bottle label. Make sure it is the right medicine and strength and that it has not expired.
  • If it has a plastic cover, take it off. Roll the bottle between your hands to mix it. Do not shake it.
  • Wipe the top of the bottle with an alcohol wipe. Let it dry. Do not blow on it.
  • Know the dose of heparin you want. Take the cap off the needle, being careful not to touch the needle to keep it sterile. Pull back the plunger of the syringe to put as much air in the syringe as the dose of medicine you want.
  • Put the needle into and through the rubber top of the heparin bottle. Push the plunger so the air goes into the bottle.
  • Keep the needle in the bottle and turn the bottle upside down.
  • With the tip of the needle in the liquid, pull back on the plunger to get the right dose of heparin into the syringe.
  • Check the syringe for air bubbles. If there are bubbles, hold both the bottle and syringe in one hand, and tap the syringe with your other hand. The bubbles will float to the top. Push the bubbles back into the heparin bottle, then pull back to get the right dose.
  • When there are no bubbles, take the syringe out of the bottle. Put the syringe down carefully so the needle does not touch anything. If you are not going to give the shot right away, carefully put the cover over the needle.
  • If the needle bends, do not straighten it. Get a new syringe.

Giving the Shot

Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry them well.

Choose where to give the shot. Keep a chart of places you have used, so you do not put the heparin in the same place all the time. Ask your provider for a chart.

  • Keep your shots 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) away from scars and 2 inches (5 centimeters) away from your navel.
  • Do not put a shot in a spot that is bruised, swollen, or tender.

The site you choose for the injection should be clean and dry. If your skin is visibly dirty, clean it with soap and water or use an alcohol wipe. Allow the skin to dry before giving the shot.

The heparin needs to go into the fat layer under the skin.

  • Pinch the skin lightly and put the needle in at a 45º angle.
  • Push the needle all the way into the skin. Let go of the pinched skin. Inject the heparin slowly and steadily until it is all in.

After all the medicine is in, leave the needle in for 5 seconds. Pull the needle out at the same angle it went in. Put the syringe down and press the shot site with a piece of gauze for a few seconds. Do not rub. If it bleeds or oozes, hold it longer.

Throw away the needle and syringe in a safe hard container (sharps container). Close the container, and keep it safely away from children and animals. Never reuse needles or syringes.

Write down the date, time, and place on the body where you put the injection.

Storing Your Heparin and Supplies

Ask your pharmacist how to store your heparin so it stays potent.

Alternative Names

DVT - heparin shot; Deep venous thrombosis - heparin shot; PE - heparin shot; Pulmonary embolism - heparin shot; Blood thinner - heparin shot; Anticoagulant - heparin shot


Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Aebersold M, Gonzalez L. Medication administration. In: Smith SF, Duell DJ, Martin BC, Aebersold M, Gonzalez L, eds. Clinical Nursing Skills: Basic to Advanced Skills. 9th ed. Hoboken, NJ: Pearson; 2017:chap 18.

Review Date 7/21/2022

Updated by: Frank D. Brodkey, MD, FCCM, Associate Professor, Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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