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Learning About Safe Needle Use and Disposal

Needles and a sharps disposal container

Why is safe needle use important?

Safe use of needles (and other sharps, such as lancets) lowers your risk of getting or spreading a serious disease. Some diseases that can be passed through unsafe needle use include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV.

How can you use needles safely?

  • Use one needle and syringe for one person, one time.

    Don't reuse needles or syringes, even if you are the only one using them. And don't try to clean them instead. Cleaning can't fully remove bacteria and viruses.

  • Don't share insulin pens or blood-testing supplies with others.

    Sharing these supplies can pass infections or diseases from one person to another.

  • Refill your supplies before you run out.

    Get what you need from your doctor or pharmacy before your supplies get too low. That way, you won't risk running out.

  • Look for a program that gives out needles (called a needle distribution program) if you need help getting sterile needles and syringes.

    These programs are sometimes called syringe services. They're usually geared toward helping people who use illegal drugs. They help people who inject drugs get new needles and syringes. And they dispose of used ones safely.

    Not all areas have these programs, but yours might. Check with your local public health authority to find a program that gives out needles in your area.

  • Dispose of used needles, syringes. and other sharps safely.

    Use a sharps disposal container. Put needles and syringes into the container right away after you use them. Don't overfill the container. And never put your fingers or hands inside of it.

Why is it important to get rid of sharps safely?

Used needles, syringes, and lancets (sharps) can be dangerous to people and pets. When sharps aren't disposed of correctly, others can get poked. Used sharps can spread diseases and cause injury and infection.

How can you get rid of sharps safely?

  • Always put used sharps in a heavy-duty plastic container.

    A container made to hold used sharps is best. You can get one from your local public health authority, a medical supplier, a drugstore, or online.

  • Carefully put your sharps in the container right away after use.

    Don't force them in. And never put your fingers or hands inside the container.

  • Don't overfill your sharps container.

    Stop at the fill line, if your container has one. If it doesn't, stop when the container is three-fourths full.

  • Never put used sharps into the recycling bin, straight into the trash, or down the toilet.

    Sharps can't be recycled. Neither can the container that holds them. And loose sharps that end up in the trash can hurt waste workers.

  • Follow your area's rules for getting rid of your sharps container.

    Some areas have laws that require special disposal of sharps containers. In other areas, you can throw them away in your regular household trash. Check with your local public health authority for the rules in your area.

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.