What is a Syringe

Syringe Sizes

First, before we discuss syringe sizes lets take a look at what a syringe actually is.  A syringe isSyringe Sizes ExampleCredit: Amazon.com a simple device that consists of a barrel with a small hole at one end and a plunger.  The plunger is moved up and down the barrel manually causing air or liquids to be 'pushed' and 'pulled' through the small hole.  The plunger usually consists of a gasket or rubber stop to create an airtight seal between it and the barrel.  This prevents the build up of pressure from causing the gas or liquid to flow the wrong way.  Most people will automatically think of medicine when considering syringes but they have many uses beyond this. We will take a look at some further down this page.

It is generally believed that the first syringes were used in India as a tool to squirt water.  They were more akin to a water pistol than anything of industrial or medical use.  The first record of their use as a medical device is from writings made in the Rome during the first century AD.  Syringes are most commonly made of plastic but can also be made of metals, particularly when used in cooking, manufacturing and some medical applications.  The picture above is a typical syringe used in medicine.


What are some non-medical uses for Syringes

Syringes have many uses beyond just the common medical applications.  They are a very precise tool used to measure quantities of liquid or gas and can also be used as a very fine way to control the application of a substance.  Lets take a look at some of the more common uses of Syringes.


A syringe is a very accurate way to apply glue, sealant, or other liquids used in construction andSyringe Sizes corking gunCredit: Amazon.com the device is often used to package and apply these substances when exact quantities are required.  They are regularly used to package and apply glues such as 2Pack where an accurate measurement is important.  You have probably used a syringe around the house without even realising it when applying sealant from a corking gun.  These are a form of syringe, where the type is the barrel and the gun is the plunger.


This is another common place where syringes are used on a regular basis, particularly in baking and cake decoration.  They are used to inject seasoning into meats, apply, icing, and even inject jam into donuts.  


Syringes are often used in industrial applications where control is required.  For example, they can be used to refill liquid containers such as ink cartridges, applying glue or oil, and they are obviously commonly used in the biotechnology manufacturing industry.

Within Machinery

Sometimes syringes are used inside a machine and are operated automatically and not manually.  A simple example is a water pump that uses a syringe mechanism operated by a motor to create water pressure.  These syringes will sometime be more complex than the simple examples used above but they are still syringes non the less.


Here is an unusual syringe

Syringe measuring cup for cooking

Syringe Uses in Medicine

Finally the most common use of syringes is in medicine.  They are used for injecting directly into a patient.  This type of syringe uses a hypodermic needle which fits onto the end of the syringe and is of an appropriate gauge for the application.  They are also used to apply medicines via catheters.  

Syringes are not just useful for injecting but are a great way to extract liquids and gasses as well.  This is useful in medicine when bloods need to be taken or if gas must be removed from a part of the body.  Syringes can also be used in surgery for many applications, including washing by squirting saline or other liquids onto a wound.  

Syringe Sizes

So lets look at some of the syringe sizes

Syring sizes vary depending on the application.  They are generally measured using the metric Syringe SizesCredit: Amazon.comsystem and when referring to medical applications are most commonly measured in fraction of a cubic centimeter (cc).  For example common insulin syringe sizes are 1cc, 1/2cc and 3/10cc. They can also be measured in millilitres (ml).  For example oral syringes are often between 1 and 10ml depending on the application.  The syringe in the image is a 3cc syringe and is very common.  Notice the tapered opening on the left which allows for a hypodermic needle to be fitted if required.

Typically it doesn't matter what size syringe is used for an application as long as it is large enough to hold the amount of substance your are injecting or extracting and not so large that it becomes difficult to measure how far the plunger has moved.