Do you tremble at the thought of having your blood drawn or getting a shot?
You’re not alone. In fact, more than 1 in 10 American

adults suffer from a fear of needles

— also known as trypanophobia. This fear can cause extreme symptoms of
anxiety, including increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and a sense
of dread, any time you are exposed to a needle or expecting a shot.

In normal times, needle anxiety can lead to people putting off important
treatments. Now, with the COVID-19 vaccine becoming more widely available,
facing this fear is essential. Here’s how:

Face your fear before you have to

An important strategy for dealing with needle anxiety is to face it head-on
before you have to schedule a medical procedure.

Consider why

needles cause feelings of anxiety and identify the root of your fear. It
can also be helpful to learn more about the procedure and the

safety guidelines
in place to protect patients.

Get some support

Because needle anxiety is so common, there are plenty of people to talk to
about it — including many who have overcome the phobia themselves! Being
open about your anxiety can help you understand and overcome your fear with
confidence. A counselor can also be helpful in addition to the support of
those who have experienced and conquered needle anxiety themselves.

Focus on relaxing

Whether you’re in the car, waiting room, or the exam room, it’s likely that
someone with needle phobia will experience some symptoms of anxiety no
matter how well they prepare. Try deep breathing: take three slow, deep
breaths, count to three, and repeat. Closing your eyes and counting, or
meditating, can also help relax your body and ease your symptoms.

Have a plan during the procedure

Even the sight of a needle can be panic-inducing for someone with
trypanophobia. Plan to look away or close your eyes before the needle comes
out and focus on the relaxation techniques above. If you aren’t otherwise
limited and are having blood drawn, be sure to drink plenty of water prior
to the test. Hydrated veins are easier to find, resulting in a faster
procedure. A final tip: cough as the needle is about to enter your skin. Research
indicates it can lessen the pain for some people.

It’s okay to ask for help!

Children receiving an injection often receive

numbing cream

or ice afterward to ease any discomfort. Even as an adult, it’s acceptable
to ask for some kind of topical anesthesia to make your experience more
tolerable. Combined with looking away during the procedure, you may not
even notice the needle at all.

Most importantly,

don’t delay treatments because of your anxiety. Lean on your support network and follow these strategies to overcome your
fear and stay on the road to wellness.

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