Does the thought of heading to the doctor’s office make you cringe — just because you might get a shot? You’re not alone — plenty of kids, teens, and adults fear needles so much that it impacts their health and well-being. Needle fear is accurate, and learning how to get over a fear of needles is essential for good health, no matter how old you are.
Nobody likes to get a shot or a blood draw, but for some, the fear of needles is so intense it causes medical difficulties. While Who can avoid other extreme worries — flying, heights, even spiders– most of us have to get a needle at some point. Learning how to get over a fear of needles will improve your comfort level with medical treatment and make it easier to get the care you need without being afraid.
Fear of needles is called Trypanophobia and consists of a few different varieties. Needle fear comes in various types, with some sufferers fearing pain while others fear injections or losing blood. About 20% of the population has a fear of needles phobia, usually relating to one of the following issues:
- Fear of vaccinations and vaccines or faulty medications
- Fear of pain from the actual needle stick
- Fear of pointed objects of all types, including pins and needles
- Fear of doctors or the medical industry
- Fear of discomfort or nausea during a blood draw
- Fear of the sight of blood
Knowing why you are afraid can help you start getting over the fear of needles. Many worries, including extreme fear of needles, begin in childhood; speaking to a parent about any incidents you had as a child may help you identify the origin of your anxiety.
Thinking about needles and injections may be uncomfortable for you, but if you can determine what part of the process you find most scary, overcoming the fear of hands will be more accessible for you.
How to Overcome a Fear of Needles
#1. Realize that the pain will be over instantly:
While young children can’t quantify pain, older kids, teens, and adults can. If you fear needles because of pain, realizing that the pain is real but will be over very quickly can help.
#2. Ask the nurse or phlebotomist for help:
Let the person giving you the injection know you are fearful. She can do her best to minimize your discomfort by providing comfortable seating, using a tiny needle, and distracting you with conversation.
#3. Request a butterfly:
Butterfly needles are used for drawing blood for various reasons, and fear of hand is one of them. Even if you have prominent veins that are easy to tap, ask that a butterfly be used to minimize your discomfort. Having some control over the process can help you overcome a fear of needles.
#4. Adopt a one-shot policy for blood draws:
If digging around looking for a vein is what makes you dread needles, make it very clear to the person who will be pulling your blood that they will have one shot. Ask for the best person in the office, and you’ll be less likely to become a pincushion.
#5. Don’t let students experiment on you:
Doctors, nurses, and lab techs have to learn sometimes, but you have the right to refuse to become a human pincushion for someone who is just learning to start an IV or draw blood. If you are in a teaching hospital or environment, or if more than one person shows up to draw your blood, one of them is likely a student. Respectfully decline and ask for a certified tech or experienced nurse — mistakes in the chair are likely to increase your fear and anxiety, not eliminate them.
#6. You can ask for an expert:
If you are in the hospital, ask for a lab tech instead of a nurse. Every hospital has a department full of phlebotomists who draw blood daily. You are likely to get a fast, efficient, and pain-free stick from someone who does hundreds of them a week than from a nurse who does one a day.
#7. Avoid worrying before your appointment:
Let your doctor know you are working to overcome the fear of needles and ask to be informed in advance if a shot or blood draw is scheduled for your visit. Kids and teens are more likely to have a picture planned, but if you know you won’t be getting a needle every time you visit the doctor, you’ll have a lot less to worry about.
#8. Reward yourself:
Even baby steps deserve rewards. If you go to a doctor’s appointment, you usually skip due to needle fear; make sure you reward yourself for going. Get a shot or blood draw? Make it genuinely worth it by rewarding yourself with something special. Over time, you may begin to associate the needle with a reward, not with pain or fear.
#9. Know you are getting blood drawn? Numb up before your shot:
If you know you’ll be getting a picture, an anesthetic cream can be applied a few minutes in advance to numb your skin. A hot compress can make it easier for the person doing the work and numb your arm a bit, too.
#10. Choose an alternate location:
If you fear blood draws, or get lightheaded or sick when blood is removed from your arm, ask the lab technician to draw from your hand instead. While the back of your hand is a less common site, there are plenty of veins to choose from, and the risk of nausea is significantly reduced.
#11. Choose an alternative delivery method:
If you need a flu shot or other preventative, you may be able to get an oral or nasal version instead of an image. Ask your doctor about alternative ways of getting the medication you need.
#12. Consider behavioral therapy:
Fear of needles is a recognized condition included in the DSM 5, so a therapist may be able to help you learn how to overcome a fear of needles in extreme cases.
Desensitize yourself by reading up on how needles work, viewing pictures of hands, or reading about the importance of injections. While fear may make you avoid needles and shots, information overload can make needles seem routine and non-threatening.
No matter which method you choose to overcome your fear, losing it is essential. Trypanophobia is one of the few fears that can cause you harm since it often prevents sufferers from seeking treatment for other conditions.