Dr's Casebook: Don’t let a fear of needles stop you getting vaccinated

The vaccination programme is going very well and once again I would encourage all adults who can have the vaccine to have it when they can.

Saturday, 17th July 2021, 4:45 pm
A fear of needles is a specific phobia, called trypanophobia. Photo: Getty Images
A fear of needles is a specific phobia, called trypanophobia. Photo: Getty Images

Unfortunately, quite a number of people miss out on this opportunity, because they have a fear of needles.

Up to one in ten people have this fear, but rather than depriving oneself of the undoubted benefit of vaccination the good news is that there are simple exercises that can help overcome it.

A fear of needles is a specific phobia, called trypanophobia.

If you have it, even the thought of having an injection can be enough to cause an acute anxiety response, which can cause a feeling of light-headedness and an additional fear that one is going to faint.

The fear of fainting can be countered by a simple technique called applied tension.

It works to raise the blood pressure.

It can be practised ahead of an appointment so that you have a coping mechanism ready to work for you when you do attend.

Start by sitting somewhere comfortable.

Then tense the muscles in your arms, upper body and legs, and hold this tension for ten to 15 seconds, or until you start to feel the warmth rising in your face.

Once you feel that, release the tension and go back to your normal sitting position.

After about 20 seconds, go through the tension procedure again until you again feel the warmth in your face.

Aim to repeat this sequence so that you have felt the tension and warmth five times.

By practising this sequence three times every day for two or three days before your appointment you will be moving on to facing your fear.

If you are interested, Anxiety UK offer a booklet on needle phobia for a small cost, and also a free downloadable factsheet about injection phobia.

Go to https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/anxiety-type/injection-phobia/

But rest assured, when you do attend the vaccination centres you will be met with understanding and sympathy.

If you wish you can even have the injection done lying down.

All the vaccinators will be sympathetic and once you have had the injection the fear will go.

The anticipation is the worst thing.

Most people hardly feel the injection at all.