What are the Different Syringe Sizes?

D. Waldman
D. Waldman
Syringes varying in size from 2ml to 20ml.
Syringes varying in size from 2ml to 20ml.

A syringe is a plastic or glass cylinder that contains a plunger that goes in one end and typically has a needle attached to the other. The term "syringe" can refer either to all three components — the cylinder, plunder, and needle — or just to the cylinder portion. Syringe sizes are indicated in milliliters and can range from 0.25 ml up to 450 ml. They also can be stated in cubic centimeters, where 1 cc is the approximate equivalent of 1 mL. These numbers indicate the volume of liquid that the cylinder is able to hold.

A syringe.
A syringe.

When referring to the unit as a whole, syringe sizes also might be given for the needle portion of the syringe because the size of the cylinder is often used to determine the size of the needle that will be attached to it. The needles themselves are categorized by length as well as the needle's gauge, indicating the overall thickness of the needle. Contrary to most measurement systems, the higher the needle's gauge, the smaller it actually is.

A small syringe.
A small syringe.

Insulin syringes, for example, are found in three common sizes: 1 cc, 1/2 cc, and 3/10 cc. The correct size syringe to use is determined by the average size of the dose of insulin that the patient administers. An insulin syringe also can be categorized by how many units of insulin it is designed to hold. Each mL or cc contains 100 units of insulin. A 3/10 cc syringe will hold up to 30 units of insulin, and a 1 cc syringe will hold up to 100 units of insulin.

A person filling a syringe.
A person filling a syringe.

There are other types of syringes, however, that do not include a needle as a component of their design. These include oral syringes, which most often are used to dispense liquids to babies or small children. Oral syringes differ from standard syringes only because of their tapered tip in place of a needle, so the same sizes are used to indicate how much liquid can be contained within the cylinder.

A dental syringe.
A dental syringe.

The final category of syringe contains neither a needle, a plunger or even a cylinder, and they are designed to clear wax and mucous from ear and nasal passages. Their lack of a cylinder means that both ear and nasal syringes are not categorized by standard syringe sizes at all. Unlike injection and oral syringes, this type are created in a bulbous design, comprised of a thin, rubber-like material and tapered to a rounded tip on one end. Ear and nasal syringes are typically found in one standard size, usually about 2 to 3 ounces (57 to 85 ml) in volume.

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Discussion Comments


It isn't so much the size of the needle, as the viscosity and volume of the injection.


I administer heartworm prevention to my dogs through a syringe without a needle. I got the ivermectin from my vet, and she instructed me on how much to give to each dog.

The syringe is very small, because it really doesn't take a lot of ivermectin to prevent heartworms. I measure out the medication precisely for each dog, and then I squirt the liquid into their mouths.

They don't like the taste, so they try to fight me on this. It's nice to have a small syringe that can fit most of the way into their mouths so that I can squirt the medicine in before they have a chance to spit it out.


@lighth0se33 – Steroid shots are usually delivered through a pretty big syringe and needle. I'm sorry to have to tell you that!

I have had steroid shots to help me get over strep throat and a persistent sinus infection before, and there is a little bit of pain involved. The syringe is fat, and the needle is a big thicker and longer than ordinary vaccine needles.

I think this is because steroids are administered according to the weight of the patient. I am the normal weight for my height, and still, it took a lot of steroid medication to treat me. For an infant or toddler, the syringe probably would have been smaller.


I've been struggling to get over bronchitis for weeks now, and I probably will have to go to the doctor for help. My friends who have had stubborn bronchitis in the past have told me that a steroid shot helped them recover very quickly, and this will probably be what I receive if I go.

I have never gotten a steroid shot before, but I've heard that the nurse gives it to you in your hip. Does anyone know what size syringe is used for steroids? Is it a huge one?

It seems that the bigger the syringe and needle, the more painful the shot. I'm a little scared to find out how big the steroid syringe will be.


My only experience with syringe needles has been my yearly flu shots. The syringes aren't terribly big, and neither are the needles.

I have friends who find huge syringes very intimidating. Some of them have a fear of needles stemming from a time that they were given a painful shot of medication. Personally, I've never had any encounters with giant syringes and needles, so I don't have any problems receiving the flu shot.

The needle doesn't even hurt when it goes into my skin. This is probably because of how small it is. The area gets a little sore a few hours later, but I've been told that is due to the vaccine itself and not the needle.

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      Syringes varying in size from 2ml to 20ml.
    • A syringe.
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      A syringe.
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      A person filling a syringe.
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