Boy, you get me started doing Works for Me Wednesday and then there’s no shutting me up! This is one I’ve been wanting to do for a while. I apologize that the majority of readers will probably not find this particularly interesting — but I think that those who do like it will love it. If you have a fear of needles and blood tests, this post is for you.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been terrified of needles. I think I heard that the technical term is “belonephobia.” If that means that you tend to have completely irrational freak-outs where you act like getting a blood test is slightly more terrifying than being sent to the guillotine, then that’s what I have. This is a bad combination with the fact that I have a blood clotting disorder that is exacerbated by pregnancy, and I always seem to be pregnant. (When I was first diagnosed I turned to my hematologist for comfort about my fear having to have frequent blood tests, and he said, “Man, that would suck. I don’t know what to tell you. I am SO freaked out by needles.” My hematologist says this.)
Anyway, after a couple years now of being a regular fixture in the phlebotomy room, I’ve figured out some tips and tricks that make blood tests go much more smoothly. I can honestly say that it doesn’t bother me all the much now. Here are my top four tips.
1. Drink tons of water.
Tons. This is the tip that has made the most difference for me. I learned it the hard way after some difficult, painful draws while I was dehydrated. The liquid part of your blood is 90% water, and chugging water before your test can really improve your blood flow and make everything go better.
2. Get your blood pumping.
I’ve noticed that my veins seem to be easier to find and the blood flows better when my blood is really moving. To help with this, I always park as far away as possible when I’m going in for a blood draw, and I jog or walk briskly into the office. (Yes, I just admitted how pathetically out of shape I am that that a short jog across the parking lot really gets my blood going.)
3. Request a butterfly needle.
Butterfly needles are smaller needles that have rubber tubes in between the needle and the collection vial. These are great not just because the needle is smaller, but because the rubber tube in between the needle and the vial means that when the nurse is, say, fiddling around looking for her cell phone while drawing your blood, the rubber absorbs the motion and the needle doesn’t JIGGLE IN YOUR ARM (not that I have any horrifying memories of this seared into my brain or anything). Butterfly needles are more expensive, so some labs are resistant to using them. In order to get them to go for it you may need to throw in a little melodrama. Explain your fears and see if you can work in a twitch every time you say the word “needle.” That usually does it.
4. Look at a crucifix.
One of my initial problems was that blood tests were something completely foreign to me. I was always in good health, so it was easy for me to build up blood tests as the BIGGEST. DEAL. IN. THE. WORLD. It helped to force myself to put the whole thing in perspective and really think about just what an insignificant amount of suffering getting a blood test really is. These days when I feel freaked out I look at the crucifix on a Rosary or a necklace, and it reminds me to unite my suffering with Christ’s and ask him to give me strength. Even when I wasn’t super religious, looking at the heart-wrenching scene depicted on a crucifix really helped me to remember that having a millimeter-wide needle prick you in the arm is just not that big of a deal.
Sorry to the readers who were bored to death by this post, but I hope that at least a couple people might find it helpful! For more great tips visit Works for Me Wednesday at Rocks in my Dryer.