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Help and Advice - How to Overcome Needle Phobia

written by: Dr. Kristie Leong • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 9/12/2010

Do you avoid seeing your doctor because of a fear of needles and needlesticks? This can be hazardous to your health. Here are some practical ways to overcome needle phobia.

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    How to Overcome Needle Phobia

    Most people aren’t fond of needles, but for some the fear of these pointed objects becomes overwhelming. This can be a major problem if a needle phobic person avoids vaccinations or stops seeing their doctor because they fear having their blood drawn or discovering they need an injection. Is there a way to overcome needle phobia?

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    How to Overcome Needle Phobia: Ways to Reduce the Pain of a Needlestick

    Most people with needle phobia fear needles because of the pain they cause – and the anticipation of that pain. Fortunately, there are ways to take the sting out of a needlestick. Topical numbing creams such as EMLA, which is available at most doctors’ offices, can be used anesthetize the area so a needle stick is less painful.

    EMLA needs to be applied at least an hour before a needlestick and is available only by prescription. Another option is to use a 4% lidocaine cream called LMX to numb the area, which can be purchased at most pharmacies. Either of these topical anesthetics will reduce the pain of a needlestick as long as they’re applied at least an hour before the stick.

    Another option is to numb the area with ice for ten minutes before an injection or blood draw. This isn’t as effective as topical numbing creams, but it does make a needlestick hurt less.

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    Conquer Needle Phobias Using the Cough Technique

    Another way to reduce the pain of a needlestick is through the power of distraction. Doctors commonly use this technique with kids. They ask a child to cough once before the injection and again when the needle is inserted. The simple act of coughing helps to divert attention away from the needlestick and makes it seem less painful. This approach works for adults too!

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    Medical Personnel Can Help with Needle Phobias

    Let a medical office know you have a fear of needles before you visit. Ask if you can lie down during the procedure - and not be allowed to see the needle. Lying down is not only more relaxing, but it protects you in the event you become lightheaded.

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    Use Relaxation Techniques to Overcome Needle Phobia

    Use visualization techniques to imagine you’re lying on a beach or relaxing in the mountains on a beautiful day with the wind blowing on your face instead of sitting in a doctor’s office. Breathe deeply while visualizing whatever pleasant scenes appeal to you. Practice recreating these “good feelings" at home, so you can reproduce them at will when you get a blood draw or injection. This works well for many phobias.

    Another way to relax before a needle stick is to listen to new age music. If you have an iPod, load it up with some peaceful music and focus in on the tunes rather than what’s happening around you.

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    For More Stubborn Needle Phobias

    Sometimes a needle phobia is so deeply ingrained that simple measures won’t work. In cases like this, a few sessions with a counselor could be beneficial. A counselor can use special behavioral techniques – and even help you discover why you experience a needle phobia. Hypnosis is another option that works for some phobias. If you’re avoiding going to a doctor because of a needle phobia and nothing else is working, make an appointment with a mental health counselor or a hypnotherapist.

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    References

    American Medical News. “Kids' shots may hurt less with "cough trick" (amednews.com)

    Behav Res Ther 1989; 27:537-47.

    J Pediatr 1993; S24-9.

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