What are the different syringe sizes?

Syringes with sizes ranging from 2ml to 20ml.

A syringe is a plastic or glass cylinder that contains a plunger that goes at one end and usually has a needle attached to the other. The term “syringe” can refer to all three components – cylinder, draw and needle – or just the cylinder part. Syringe sizes are indicated in milliliters and can range from 0.25 ml to 450 ml. They can also be expressed in cubic centimeters, where 1 cc is the approximate equivalent of 1 mL. These numbers indicate the volume of liquid the cylinder is capable of holding.

A syringe.

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

A small syringe.

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

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A person filling a syringe.

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

A dental syringe.

The final category of syringes do not contain a needle, plunger or even a cylinder, and are designed to clear wax and mucus from the ear and nasal passages. The lack of a cylinder means that ear and nasal syringes are not categorized by standard syringe sizes. Unlike injectable and oral syringes, this type is created in a bulbous design, composed of a thin, rubber-like material and tapered into a rounded tip at one end. Ear and nasal syringes are typically found in a standard size, usually around 2 to 3 ounces (57 to 85 ml) in volume.

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