This post is made possible with support from the Meg Foundation. All opinions are my own.
Have you heard the term needle anxiety? As a registered nurse, I have worked with many people over the years who have a fear of needles. There is good news for people who have a fear of needles and shots. A little planning can make getting a vaccination much less stressful.
WHAT IS NEEDLE ANXIETY?
The medical term for needle anxiety is Trypanophobia. It is a persistent and irrational fear of needles. I would say that no one LIKES getting a shot, but many people have degrees of needle anxiety ranging from moderate to severe.
Around 25% of adults have a fear of needles that could impede them from getting medical care that could help them. The numbers are even higher for children. Around 63% of children have a terrifying fear of needles that makes vaccination appointments very difficult. One of my children falls into this category, and it has been very challenging even for me as a nurse.
Many people have stuck to avoidance when it comes to needle fears. It has been easier to avoid getting a shot at all costs than to find strategies that can help overcome the anxiety. Unfortunately, with health concerns like COVID-19 on the scene, avoidance is not the safest option anymore.
The truth is that ACTION IS THE ENEMY OF ANXIETY and there are simple, proven strategies that can help anyone overcome needle anxiety.
ACTION IS THE ENEMY OF ANXIETY
Planning ahead can be pivotal in allowing a person to overcome the anxiety surrounding needle anxiety and getting the COVID-19 vaccination or any other shot or vaccination.
No one wants to be immobilized by their fears. We must face them and develop a strategy to overcome the fear.
There are proven steps that people can take ahead of getting a shot and during the process to alleviate much of the stress involved.
The Meg Foundation has a mission to empower families with the pain management strategies, skills, and support they need to prevent and reduce pain. One area the foundation focuses on is helping people (of all ages) work on the fear of needles that could be getting in the way of treatments important for their health. They want to help people “Hack the Vax” by getting the right tools into their hands.
NEEDLE ANXIETY HACKS
Here are some REAL and USEFUL hacks to make getting a shot easier. Having a plan ALWAYS makes us feel more empowered. You CAN push through needle fears by planning ahead.
- Speak up and tell your medical providers what you need before the procedure begins.
- Block the pain by applying some over-the-counter topical anesthetic like lidocaine cream or use vibration like Buzzy Bee to interrupt pain signals.
- Just breath. It sounds too simple to work, but slow deep breaths actually send a message to our brain and body to calm down.
- Distractions work and don't be afraid to use them. Before the vaccination and during the shot, feel free to watch a funny video, listen to music, or play a game on your phone. Keeping your mind clear of your present fear can make a big difference. The injection will be over before you realize it.
- Touch can be a great needle anxiety hack for some people. Hold someone's hand during the shot, or have them rub your shoulders or back.
- Connect with your “person” during the appointment and let them help take your mind off the present situation. This could be a great time to try out some new jokes.
- Look away, baby… look away! If you are at a vaccination clinic where other people are getting their vaccines taken in a room where you can see them, the best advice is to look away. Watching other people get shots could trigger more anxiety for you.
- You deserve a reward for facing your fears and doing what you know is best for your own health and the health of those around you. Plan ahead of time what reward you can give yourself after the vaccination is complete.
Head over to Hack the Vax and check out their interactive plan builder. It walks you through each step of preparing for your appointment and then emails your final plan to you!
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Many people feel alone in their fear of needles. The truth is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. This is a very common concern for many, many people of all ages.
No one wants to be held hostage to fears. It is nothing to be embarrassed about and is something that can be overcome.
I am excited to try these strategies with my own child. It will make her next vaccination an easier process for everyone… LOL!
If you are not afraid of needles, you probably know someone who does have this fear. I would ask that you share this important information with them.
Think, plan, and go get your shot without fear, and pass on these techniques because you never know when someone else is feeling nervous.