What is needle phobia - Blood on the Go

Needle Phobia

Most people would agree that having blood drawn or getting a vaccine are not pleasant experiences. But for an estimated 20-23% of the population, there is an actual needle phobia present. In people with needle phobia, there is the risk that they will avoid medical treatment for fear of the stress that occurs when getting a shot. But an expert phlebotomist can make the process go a lot more smoothly for all involved.

What is needle phobia?

About 20-23% of the population experiences needle phobia to some degree. Exact numbers are hard to come by, because those with the most severe cases of needle phobia often avoid medical settings altogether and so go uncounted. And defining what needle phobia is exactly can be a little hard, since the condition exists on a spectrum of intensities. Needle phobia has its roots in one of several possible causes. First off, there are those who have a true psychological phobia present. These people are truly experiencing a phobic reaction to needles. Those with this type of needle phobia likely had a traumatic needle experience as a child or at some point in their life. If not, there is the perceived expectation of pain or trauma which causes the fear.

Perhaps the most common cause is due to the vasovagal reflex response. Patients who have this type of “needle phobia” are often not actually scared of the needle at all. What they are fearing, in fact, is the physiological response being poked by a needle provokes. These people experience dizziness, sweating, increasing heart rate, and sometimes fainting. This fainting is due to raised blood pressure followed quickly by a drop in blood pressure. This variant of needle phobia often runs in families.

Finally, some people experience pain to a much greater degree than the general population. For these people, getting a shot truly hurts them enough that they dread injections.

How can an expert phlebotomist help?

An expert phlebotomist has worked with and has encountered people with varying degrees of needle phobia. Expert phlebotomists are able to watch for clues that a person is mentally and physically ready for a shot, and will not administer a blood test until the person is ready. The actual treatment depends on which type of phobia is present. For those that have a true phobia of needles, phlebotomists can help distract from the procedure. For those with a vasovagal reaction to needles, laying down during the procedure may help, as well as the administering of blood pressure medication beforehand. There is also a strategy called the applied tension technique that may help. There are anesthetic patches available as well as topical numbing agents, these may help those who experience pain during injections, and can serve to ease the fears of those with a phobia stemming from past experiences.

So if you suffer from needle phobia, make sure to inform your phlebotomist and any medical professionals working with you, and try asking about one of the strategies listed above. Also, consider trying an at-home phlebotomy service. This way you are in the comfort and familiarity of your own home, rather than the unfamiliar setting of a lab, which may contribute to triggering or worsening your needle phobia. Most importantly, don’t let your needle phobia hold you back from getting the medical care you need.

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