Am I Getting a Shot Today?

None of us enjoys getting a shot, a blood draw or any other poking, prodding medical procedure that requires a sharp instrument. Some of us even have a real fear of needles, called trypanophobia, that might prevent us from seeking the medical care that we (or our children) truly need and deserve.

Why do people fear needles?

This is actually more complicated that it sounds. Some people have what’s called a classic phobia, where they feel anxiety—and maybe even nausea and shortness of breath—when they see or even think about needles. For others, it’s more of a reflex than feeling scared, where they faint or even have a seizure when they have a procedure that uses a needle. The third type of needle fear is due to hypersensitivity on the skin’s surface, so that breaking the skin with a needle hurts way more than it should.

Does anything help?

There are several ways to deal with this fear when a needle is necessary. If you’re trying to prepare or comfort someone else, like a child, try one or more of these ideas:

  • Don’t ever promise “No needles” before a medical appointment—there’s always a chance that a vaccination or a blood draw is needed, even if you weren’t expecting it.
  • Don’t try to minimize the fear, shame your child or say that it won’t hurt—needles usually do hurt, and this is a real fear that your child can’t help having.
  • Make sure the nurse or phlebotomist knows about your child’s fear—they might have a numbing spray or a smaller needle they could use to minimize the pain.
  • Distract your child so that they aren’t watching and dreading the needle—talk about something else, read a book aloud or even show a funny video on your phone.

If you’re the one with the phobia, be sure to tell your nurse or other medical professional about your fear. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, and the heads up will help the nurse better prepare. Distraction usually helps, so consider taking along a book, some music, a mobile game—anything that takes your mind off what’s happening. If your fear is so strong that it causes you to skip medical appointments,consider speaking with your physician about appropriate action.