How to Accurately Measure on a Syringe

Amanda Thomas May 8, 2024
Syringe Closeup on blue background

What’s one of the most important aspects of using a syringe correctly?

The ability to measure accurately.

Whether administering medication, drawing blood, or measuring liquids, knowing how to read a syringe is crucial for client safety and proper treatment.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of measurements with different types of syringes.

Jump to Section


  1. Parts of the Syringe
  2. Steps to Reading a Syringe
  3. How to Identify and measure with Common Types of Syringes
  4. Ready to test your knowledge?

Parts of the Syringe

Before we dive into basic measurements of syringes, let’s first familiarize ourselves with the different parts of a syringe.

Parts of a Syringe Labeled
  • Adaptor: The end of the syringe where the needle attaches.
  • Barrel: The long cylindrical part of the syringe that holds liquids. It has a readable scale, usually marked with measurements in milliliters (mL), cubic centimeters (cc) or units (IU).
  • Plunger: The push rod that moves back and forth within the barrel to expel or draw in liquid.
  • Plunger seal: The black or clear rubber part at the end of the plunger that creates a tight seal with the barrel.
  • Scale: The marked measurements on the barrel that show volume.

Steps to Reading a Syringe

Here are four simple steps to accurately measure with a syringe.

Check the Units

Find the units of measurement shown on the syringe. Most syringes use mL as the standard unit of measurement, but specialized syringes may display units such as insulin which is dispensed in units (IU).

Count the Lines

Each syringe has lines that correspond to specific volume measurements. Each one marks a certain number of mL or a fraction of an mL. By counting these lines, you can determine the amount of medication or fluid in the syringe.

Count in Consecutive Increments

Reading the syringe accurately means counting in consecutive increments. For example, when measuring 2 mL, start at 0 on the scale, count each hash line until the line that measures 2.

Count or Measure Between the Hash Lines When Needed

Nurses may need to administer a dosage between two marked lines on the syringe.

In these cases, identify the amount of medication in between the two given lines.

How to Identify and measure with Common Types of Syringes

There are various types of syringes available, each with its own unique features.

Here is a breakdown of the measurements of the most common ones:

10 mL Syringe

The 10 mL syringe’s markings allow for measurements in 0.5 increments.

5 mL Syringe

The 5 mL syringe’s markings allow for measurements in 0.2 mL increments.

3 mL Syringe

With a 3 mL syringe, each line represents 0.1 mL increments.

1 mL Syringe

Each line on a 1 mL syringe represents 0.01 mL, making it the most precise syringe for measuring small doses of medication.

Fast Fact: There are 1,000 mg in 1 mL syringe

100 Unit Insulin Syringe

The markings on this syringe correspond to insulin units rather than volume measurements. Each line represents two units of insulin.

100 Unit Insulin Syringe

Ready to test your knowledge?

Answer the following questions.

3 mL Syringe and a 1 mL Syringe
  1. Where is 0.25 mL on a 1 mL syringe? 
  2. Where is 0.54 mL on a 1 mL syringe? 
  3. Where is 1.6 mL on a 3 mL syringe?

Answers

  1. Find the half mark between the 0.2 mL and 0.3 mL lines.
  1. The fourth line between 0.5 mL and 0.6 mL represents 0.5 mL.
  1. Look for the first line past the 1.5 mL indicator on the 3 mL syringe.

Remember, proficiency in reading a syringe is a critical aspect of nursing practice. By mastering this skill, nurses ensure the safe and effective administration of medications to clients.

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