With COVID-19 vaccinations becoming more available in the community, Mayo Clinic Health System is offering advice to those who might be afraid of the needle poke.
"A fear of needles can manifest itself in many ways depending on each individual," says Jessica Wadium, certified child life specialist at Mayo Clinic Health System. "Just the sight of a needle, a phobia called trypanophobia, can cause sweating, nausea, fainting, dizziness and even heart palpitations."
Immunizations using a needle have been around for centuries. Vaccinations protect people from preventable diseases, including diphtheria, measles, polio and influenza. COVID-19 vaccines produced by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are being offered to patients as they become available.
"Fear of needles shouldn't stop you from getting your COVID-19 vaccine or any other vaccination," adds Wadium. "Although it's a small poke and it’s over in seconds, it is important to recognize that there are many ways to help counter the fear and anxiety that can stop people from getting a vaccination."
Wadium offers a few strategies when coping with receiving a COVID-19 vaccination (or any other phobias):
- Deep breathing. Deep breathing lowers pain, relaxes muscles and decreases anxiety. This helps because when the muscle is relaxed, the injection does not hurt as much.
- Distraction. "Distractions can work differently for each person," explains Wadium. "Common alternatives to help focus on something else include watching a video, playing a song or talking to another person. Any of these methods can help the individual focus on another topic during the injection, and, therefore, lowers the fear in the moment."
- Voicing your preferences. "Feel free to inform the nurse on what helps the individual cope best. Let the nurse know if you would prefer to have him or her count down, or have a specific arm you would like the injection in. You also can let them know if you want to watch or look away," Wadium adds. "Most importantly, tell the nurse if you have a history of feeling lightheaded or faint with needles and would benefit from laying back."
- Positioning (pediatric patients). Comfort positioning, such as having the child sit on the caregiver's lap facing chest-to-chest, promotes feelings of control, comfort and active participation in one's medical care, which can increase compliance and a positive experience.
- Preparation. Talk or think through each step, feel more prepared and in control of the situation. Do not stop thinking through once the injection is finished. Remind yourself what you are going to do after the injection, as a reminder that it is one moment in time.
- Pain management. "Ask the nurse about pain management if it is a pediatric patient, patient with special needs or if there is high fear of pain. For pediatric patients, there are multiple options for pain management, and these may be available for adults, as well," Wadium says.