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The Different ways of Administering Medication

Last updated on 20th December 2023

There are different ways which medication can be administrated, some methods can only be administrated by a person who has had special training, to help reduce the risk of harm it could cause on an individual.


The majority of medicines that are prescribed are administered orally. It is important that oral medication comes in different forms as people can be unable to swallow tablets. Swallowing liquid can be easier for some people, especially for children and elderly people having the option to have oral medication in a liquid form will be easier for them.

Oral medication includes:

  • Tablets
  • Capsules
  • Liquids
  • Mixtures.
Ways of administering medication


For people who have difficulty with respiratory issues they will often inhale medication. This will be people that have asthma and inhaling means that the medicine will be able to get to the area of the body where it is most needed quicker than swallowing medication. Things such as inhalers and nebulisers ensure that the medicine goes straight to the lungs and will work immediately.


Instillation is in the form of liquid and enters the body via the eyes, nose or ears. Ear drops can be used to clear up build up of wax, eye drops are used for eye infections and for people that have allergies such as hay fever can use sprays that are administrated via the nose. However, these methods of administration may need to be carried out by specially trained staff.


Administering medication can take place through an injection. This is so that medication goes straight into the blood stream. Injected medication has a risk of infection so specialist needles and sharps training should be undertaken by people working in care that give people injections. There are three types of injection.


This injection goes into a large muscle such as the thigh or buttock, only trained medical professionals such as doctors and nurses can administer the injection via this method.


The injection goes straight to the vein and is absorbed through the body quickly.


This injection goes beneath the individual’s skin, someone that has type 1 diabetes will need to have insulin injected into them, care workers have to have specialist training and they have to get permission from the individual.

Administering medication

Transdermal Administration 

This is also know as a ‘patch’ and allows medicine to be absorbed into the blood stream via the skin over a long period of time, as it is slow-releasing. Most common transdermal medication are Hormone Replace Therapy (HTR) and fentanyl patches. These are used for individuals who are in severe pain or cannot take pain medication in any other method.

Rectal Administration

Medication that is administered rectally will work very quickly. A type of medication that is administered rectally are called suppositories, they have a substance around them such as gelatine and as the warmth of the body melts that away so the medication slowly releases. Only staff that are specially trained can administer medication via this method.

Vaginal Administration 

If someone has a condition relating to the vagina, like thrush, then administration via the vagina will be used. This way of administrating will only be needed with conditions that relate to the vagina. Specially trained staff are only allowed to administrate medication.

Storing medication

Every health care setting must have a strict policy which needs to be written in line with legislation. It should include how medication should be stored safely, this means that it will remain fit for purpose and isn’t accessible by people that will not use it for its intended purpose.

It is important that care workers should be familiar with all polices that relate to storing medication, this means they will know how to do it correctly. For people that take their own medication, consideration should be given and how easy it is for them to access the medication that they need and if anything needs changing.

Medication must remain below 25 degrees Celsius, this is in line with the manufacture recommendations and makes sure that medication isn’t compromised.

For people who store their medication at home, the kitchen and bathroom should be avoided as this is where steam is more likely, this can also compromise the medication and cause it not to work properly. For carers that go to peoples homes they should inform them about how they should move their medication to a more ideal place.

Test your knowledge on our administering medication quiz.

Disposing of medication

When medication is no longer required it must be disposed of as soon as possible. There should be a member of staff that is designated to check the medicine stocks on a monthly basis, as this is in line with the legislation.

Needles and sharps need to be placed in a sharps bin and disposed of by the local authority. Liquid waste should be disposed of in a specialist bin, they should never be put down the toilet or sinks.

Transdermal patches must be folded in half before being disposed as this renders them ineffective.

Dignity and privacy

It is important to provide dignity and privacy when administering medication. This helps to make the patient feel comfortable, especially if administering medication means the patient having to take some of their clothes off, or having medication administered rectally or vaginally.

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About the author

Eve Johnson

Eve Johnson

Eve has worked at CPD from the start, she organises the course and blog production, as well as supporting students with any problems they may have and helping them choose the correct courses. Eve is also studying for her Business Administration Level 3 qualification. Outside of work Eve likes to buy anything with flamingos on it, catching up with friends, spending time with her family and occasionally going to the gym!

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