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How to help manage a fear of needles before your Covid-19 vaccine

Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

Lead GP at Livi

While many of us are eager to get our Covid-19 jabs, for those of us with a fear of needles, just the thought of one injection may cause severe anxiety. We explain some of the triggers that might lead to a phobia of needles and how to overcome your fear.

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What is a phobia of needles?

Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK suffer from a fear of needles or a phobia of needles. It’s important to know there’s a difference between the two.

If you have a fear of needles, you’re scared of blood tests or injections. How severe and debilitating this fear is will vary from person to person. It’s only natural to feel scared at times and react to something you perceive as a threat.

A phobia on the other hand is an excessive, irrational and disabling fear of something that doesn’t necessarily pose a threat – like certain blood tests, injections or vaccinations which are essential for your health.

In medical terms, a phobia of needles is called trypanophobia. Sometimes, just the sight of blood can trigger the same kind of anxiety. A phobia that’s specific to blood is known as hemophobia.

What causes a phobia of needles?

There are many reasons for a possible phobia of needles. Some people just don’t feel comfortable with the idea of a medical professional administering a needle into them, while others find the loss of control highly stressful.

You may have developed a needle phobia in response to a traumatic injection you had as a child, or if you’ve had treatment for a serious illness involving lots of injections.

Key symptoms of needle phobia

If you suffer from an excessive fear of needles, you’ll usually avoid blood tests or vaccinations as much as possible.

You may also experience the following symptoms:

  • Increased blood pressure
  • Faster heart rate or palpitations
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Short of breath
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

While these reactions are harmless, they’re often unpleasant and can cause you to feel more anxious or panicky.

What to do before you’re next faced with a needle

Here’s some advice on managing your anxiety when you go for your next vaccination, blood test or injection.

  • Let the healthcare professional know how you’re feeling – they’ll be used to dealing with people with similar worries

  • Tell the healthcare professional that you’re highly sensitive to pain

  • Ask if you can have the jab lying down if you’re prone to getting dizzy or faint

  • Distract yourself while you have your jab – look away, listen to music and try to think about something else

How to get over needle phobia

Unfortunately, many of us have to face injections at some point in our lives – especially now recurrent Covid-19 booster jabs are becoming the norm.

The first step to curing your phobia is to admit and acknowledge your fear of injections or needles.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help. This treatment involves gradually desensitising yourself to needles and training yourself not to associate needles with danger.

A technique called ‘applied tension’ may also be helpful if you experience a fall in blood pressure or are prone to fainting.

This is a technique where you tense your muscles to increase your blood pressure.

By preventing your blood pressure from falling, you reduce your risk of fainting. A doctor can give you more information about this technique.

How Livi can help

If you’re worried about getting your Covid-19 booster or any other vaccination or injection, speak to a Livi GP

They can give you more information on needle phobia treatment and help you take the right steps.

Speak to a GP about a phobia of needles

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