Living with Crohn’s disease sometimes means having injections for everything from nutrition therapy to medications. If you have this condition, you may become well-acquainted with alcohol swabs and sterile sharps. Some people are comfortable self-injecting after they receive training from their healthcare provider. Others would rather have the help of a medical practitioner through a clinic or home visits. Regardless of your preference, there are things you can do to improve your injection treatment experience.
1. Have your supplies ready.
Preparation is important. If you are self-injecting, have everything you need on hand before you begin. This includes:
- pre-filled medication syringe
- alcohol swab to clean injection site
- sharps disposal container
- cotton ball to apply pressure to the injection site after removing the syringe
- Band-Aid (optional)
If your medication has been refrigerated, let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes so it’s not cold when you inject it.
2. Check everything.
Check the expiration date and dose on your medication. Examine the syringe to ensure it’s not broken. Look at the condition of the medication, and watch for unusual coloration, sediment, or cloudiness.
3. Choose the right injection site.
Your medication injection is subcutaneous. That means it’s not going directly into your bloodstream. Instead, you inject the medication into the fatty layer between your skin and muscle where it will slowly be absorbed.
The best place for subcutaneous injections are the tops of your thighs, your abdomen, and the outer portion of your upper arms. If you choose your abdomen, avoid the 2-inch radius around your belly button.
Avoid areas of skin that have been damaged, such as those exhibiting:
- hard lumps
- stretch marks
4. Rotate your injection locations.
When you choose a site, make sure it’s different from the previous site you injected. It doesn’t have to be on a different body part, but it should be at least 1 inch away from where you last injected. If you don’t rotate, you’re more likely to bruise and develop scar tissue.
5. Practice pain reduction.
Try applying ice to the injection site before injecting to reduce the pain and stinging. Ice can also reduce post-treatment bruising by shrinking capillaries that you could puncture with the needle.
Let the alcohol-swabbed area dry before inserting the needle into the skin.
Choose a syringe rather than an auto-injector pen. A syringe plunger can be pressed slowly, which reduces the pain associated with injection.
Anxiety can make pain worse, so try a calming ritual before you inject. If you self-inject at home, this ritual could involve taking a warm bath and listening to soothing music. If you go to a clinic, try breathing exercises that target anxiety.
6. Prioritize safety.
Ensure your injection site is swabbed with alcohol before injecting. If a medical practitioner injects you, they should wear gloves. If you’re self-injecting, wash your hands first. Also, make sure the needle is placed directly into the sharps disposal container immediately after you remove it from your skin. Any attempt to replace the cap can put the user at risk for a needle poke.
7. Monitor side effects.
Medication often has side effects. Some are of no concern, and others should be checked by a doctor. Side effects may include:
Ask your doctor when you should be concerned. Also, monitor your injection site and how you feel in case you experience any differences.
Infection is another side effect of Crohn’s treatment because your condition involves reducing immune system activity. So make sure your vaccinations are up-to-date. Also, tell your doctor right away if you show any symptoms of infection.
Injections are a big part of treatment for Crohn’s disease. Many people with Crohn’s choose to self-inject once they’ve been trained by their healthcare provider. You can too, or you can choose to have your injections administered by a nurse or doctor. Regardless of your decision, knowing what to expect can help you feel less anxious about needles. And once you’ve had some experience, getting injections gets easier.