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

11 Apr 2021

While many of us are eager to get our Covid-19 jabs, for those of us with a needle phobia, just the thought of an injection may cause severe anxiety. Here, we explain some of the reasons for needle phobia and how you can overcome your fear

What is needle phobia?

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

If you have a fear of needles, you’re afraid of injections or blood tests. 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. Needle phobia is a case in point, as blood tests, vaccines and other injections may be essential for your good health. Sometimes, just the sight of blood can trigger the same kind of anxiety. This is called haemophobia.

What causes needle phobia?

There are many reasons for needle phobia and the causes differ from person to person. 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 traumatic injections you had as a child; or if you’ve had a serious illness involving lots of injections.

The key symptoms of needle phobia

If you suffer from needle phobia, you’ll usually avoid blood tests or vaccinations.

A needle phobia may have the following symptoms:

  • Your blood pressure and heart rate increase, then rapidly drop as your body attempts to compensate
  • This may make you feel dizzy – you may even faint
  • You may experience panic, palpitations, breathing difficulties, sweating, nausea and dizziness

While these reactions are harmless, they’re often unpleasant.

What to do before you get vaccinated

Here’s some advice on managing your anxiety when you go for your jab:

  • Tell the healthcare professional that you’re worried
  • Tell the healthcare professional that you’re highly sensitive to pain
  • Ask to lie down if you easily get dizzy or faint
  • Distract yourself while you get your jab – listen to music, look away and try to think about something else

How to overcome needle phobia

Unfortunately, many of us have to face injections at some point in our lives. The first step to curing your needle phobia is to admit and acknowledge your fear.

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 be helpful if you experience a fall in blood pressure or 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

Speak to a Livi GP if you suffer from needle phobia and we can help you take the right steps.

See a Livi GP in minutes or book up to 7 days ahead. Download the Livi app now.

REVIEWED BY
Dr Rhianna McClymont
Lead GP at Livi
Last updated:

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