Fears that develop in childhood often carry over into adulthood. An example of this is the fear of needles.
The fear of needles, or trypanophobia, is surprisingly prevalent, with 25% of adults having a phobia of needles, according to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which develops vaccine recommendations for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 7% of adults avoid vaccines because of their fear, he said. Hayley Ralph, MD, OSF Medical Group Family Medicine Physician.
With the widespread launch of COVID-19 vaccines, people who fear needles may experience more anxiety when it comes to deciding whether or not to get vaccinated.
“Most children are afraid of needles. About 20 to 50% of teens are afraid of needles and 20 to 30% of young adults, ”Dr. Ralph said. “The fear of needles is more common in women than in men and generally decreases as people age.
“The fear of needles probably developed early as infants with routine childhood vaccinations,” he said. “It has also been suggested that there is a genetic predisposition to fear of needles. However, it is important to remember that it is a completely normal reaction to want to protect your body from punctures and pricks, ”he said.
While the COVID-19 vaccines in use have been shown to be safe and effective, it can still be a bit scary for people sitting in a clinic to get the injection.
Some symptoms that people with this fear may experience include:
- Feeling faint, fainting when seeing or thinking of needles
- Have an increase in heart rate or blood pressure.
- Shortness of breath, dry mouth, shaking, and nausea.
- A full-blown panic attack is likely when someone fears that they will not be able to escape from the needles.
Advice from a doctor
“I tell patients that it is very common and that they are not alone. Validating their fears or concerns can be therapeutic and really helps calm patients,” Dr. Ralph said. “Next, it is important to help them think about it. your fear in a positive way. Instead of thinking, ‘I hate needles,’ try saying things like, ‘A needle may hurt for a second, but it’s good for my overall health.’
“Or I say to my patients, ‘I got my vaccine this year and it was very easy.’ Sometimes it helps patients know that you get them too, ”he said.
Facing your anxiety
If you are very afraid of needles, it can be helpful to gradually bring what you fear into your senses.
For vaccines, the needle size is a uniform 22 to 25 gauge 1 inch to 1½ inch long.
“You can try looking for some needle images on the internet. Let your anxiety build up and don’t stop looking until your anxiety subsides, ”says Dr. Ralph said. “When you’re done, take a few minutes to relax.
Then take the next step. Maybe watching someone get an injection with a needle on TV or watching videos on the Internet, ”he said. “Keep practicing the same technique of letting your anxiety rise and fall naturally.”
Techniques to ease your fear of needles
Dr. Ralph recommends the following strategies:
- Practice deep breathing techniques. Focus on slowly inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, repeat this five times.
- Imagine yourself in a happy place like on a beach in the warm sun.
- Lie down and close your eyes while receiving the vaccine if you are someone who passes out from the needles.
- Communicate your anxiety to the person administering the vaccine, as it can often help distract and calm you.
- Try the “applied tension technique” if you are concerned about fainting. This helps bring your blood pressure back to normal. Try to do this three times a day up to a week before your appointment. Choose a comfortable place to sit. Tense the muscles in your arms, upper body, and legs for 15 seconds. Release the tension and sit back comfortably. After 20 to 30 seconds, re-tense the muscles. Repeat this five times.
You may also consider applying an over-the-counter numbing cream, such as lidocaine cream, to your arm about 30 minutes before your scheduled injection date.
“It can help reduce discomfort and also give you peace of mind,” Dr. Ralph said.
- Squeeze a stress ball.
- Refocus your anxiety and thoughts on something else while you get vaccinated.
- Give yourself an incentive or a reward. Tell yourself that you can only have the reward if you face your fear. Then treat yourself to a coffee, a pedicure, a treat, or whatever moves you.
- Play a game on your phone or watch your favorite show.
“It all comes down to distracting yourself so you don’t even feel the injection if you’re concentrating on something else,” Dr. Ralph said.