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Don’t Get Stuck by a Fear of Needles

Learn helpful tips for people of all ages

Don’t Get Stuck by a Fear of Needles

Few people enjoy getting shots or having blood drawn. But for some, a fear of needles stands in the way of lifesaving care, such as COVID-19 vaccines or insulin for diabetes.

Needle aversion is common, affecting two in three children and one in four adults. “These feelings can range from mild discomfort to a full-blown phobia, called trypanophobia,” says psychiatrist Elizabeth Mutter, DO, with LVPG Adult and Pediatric Psychiatry.

Some fears come after a past painful experience, but there’s also a biological basis. “Young children and people with general anxiety, among others, are at higher risk,” Mutter says. But no one is immune, even doctors and clinicians!” Here’s how to cope.

To help kids

Stop the shame. Phobias aren’t a choice or a way of seeking attention. They’re very real to the person experiencing them. “Don’t demand your child buck up,” says pediatrician Nicole Zeiner, MD, with LVPG Pediatrics. “Instead, listen, reassure and make a plan to manage fears.”

Choose words wisely. Be realistic. Explain to your child what will happen. Use more neutral terms like “poke,” “pinch” and “pressure,” rather than “pain” or “shot.”

Practice makes perfect. Role play the medical visit beforehand, so children know what to expect.

Emphasize the benefits. “Tell kids they’re getting medicine to keep them healthy,” Zeiner says. “If they’re a bit older, explain more – for instance, how vaccines boost immunity.”

At any age

Manage pain. Ask about a cream, spray or other medication to numb skin. Devices that create a buzzing or cooling feeling also reduce pain sensations.

Distract. Bring music, toys or videos. Look away from the needle.

Relax. Ease anxiety with deep breathing, counting to three on each inhale or exhale. Close your eyes and picture a happy place or image.

Ask for alternatives. In some cases, you have options. For instance, jet injection devices deliver medicine through a high-pressure mist instead of needles.           

Consider counseling. For severe fears, talk with a mental health professional. “Exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or even medication can make medical visits less fear-inducing,” Mutter says.

Keep up with your vaccinations

Schedule a visit with your primary care doctor

If you don’t have a doctor

Call 888-402-LVHN or find one here

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