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Withdrawing medicine from a vial


Sometimes you will need to give medicine to your child while you are away from the hospital. The medicine may be inside a syringe when the staff member gives it to you, or you may have to withdraw the medicine from a small vial (bottle). It is important to keep the medicine sterile (germ free) and to withdraw the correct amount from the vial. The following steps will help you withdraw medicine from a vial correctly.

Supplies needed

  • Syringe with needle 
  • Vial of medicine 
    • Name of medicine ________________________________ 
    • Your dose is__________. The strength of your medicine is __________. For each dose, draw ___ml into the syringe. 
  • Alcohol prep pad 
  • Extra needle (if needed)


  1. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry well, or use an alcohol-based hand-cleaning product. See “Do you know… Clean hands.” 
  2. Gather your supplies. 
  3. Remove the cap from the vial, exposing the rubber stopper. Do not shake the vial unless you have been told to do so. You may have a vial that requires you to mix the medicine. You can do this by pushing down the top of the vial to release the cork. Then, gently roll the vial between your palms to mix the medicine well. 
  4. Clean the rubber stopper with an alcohol prep pad for 7 seconds. Let the stopper air dry without blowing air on it. 
  5. Remove the syringe from its package. Twist the attached needle to make sure it is firmly in place. 
  6. With the needle cover still on the needle, pull back on the plunger and pull air into the syringe. The amount of air pulled into the syringe should be the same as the dose of medicine the doctor has prescribed. 
  7. Carefully pull the needle cover straight off the needle. Do not touch the needle.
  8. Place the medicine vial on a flat surface and insert the needle straight through the rubber stopper. 
  9. Push the plunger of the syringe down and inject air into the vial. The air injected into the vial will allow the medicine to be withdrawn more easily. 
  10. Keeping the needle in the vial, turn the vial upside down and make sure the needle is in the liquid medicine. 
  11. Slowly pull back on the plunger and let the medicine enter the syringe, filling up to the dose the doctor prescribed. 
  12. Check for air bubbles in the syringe. To remove the air bubbles, gently tap the syringe until the bubbles rise to the top of the syringe barrel. Then push the plunger, forcing the air out of the syringe. Once again pull the plunger back to the number that matches the prescribed dose. Double check for air bubbles. Repeat these steps if needed. 
  13. Double check that the correct dose is in the syringe. 
  14. Take the needle out of the vial. Carefully recap the needle. 
  15. Throw the vial away.

When a needle needs to be changed

If a needle is needed to give this medicine to your child, you will have to remove the needle you used to withdraw the medicine from the vial. You will replace the used needle with a new, sterile needle. The new needle will be smaller than the one used to withdraw the medicine from the vial.

  1. Hold the syringe with the attached needle pointing up. Pull the plunger in the syringe back until a small air bubble is seen. 
  2. Open the new needle package. You may lay the syringe and old needle down to do this. 
  3. Twist the old, recapped needle off of the syringe. Do not lay the syringe down while the needle is off. 
  4. Take the new needle out of the package and twist the needle firmly onto the syringe. 
  5. Uncap the needle. Do not touch the needle. 
  6. While holding the syringe with the newly attached needle pointing up, push the plunger up until a tiny drop of medicine is seen on the needle tip. There should not be any air bubbles in the syringe after you push the plunger up. 
  7. Recap the needle until you are ready to give the medicine to your child. 
  8. Discard the used needles in a patient sharps container. See “Do you know… Throwing away sharp objects safely.”


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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