All grown up and still afraid of needles? These tips may help
Atlanta - In surveys, 28% of American adults say are they are afraid of needles.
For about 16%, the fear is so severe, they will skip COVID-19 shots, flu vaccinations and other recommended shots rather than endure the discomfort they feel.
Emergency physician Amy Baxter says adults are often embarrassed about their shot phobia.
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She says the fear can often be traced back to early childhood vaccinations when children between the ages of 4 and 6 are too young to understand why they need shots.
"One of the things that people don't understand is this irrational fear can cause panic and shame," Dr. Baxter says. "So, you don't need to worry about the pain as much for adults as getting in and out quickly and not fainting."
Dr. Baxter, who invented Buzzy, a pain reduction tool used by many pediatricians and parents, has been studying needle phobia in kids and adults for years.
She says many adults do not even tell even their providers about their shot fears.
"So, for sure, if you're an adult who is worried about needles, you need to tell the person, but they're afraid the person they tell is going to roll their eyes or be cruel because that can happen," she says.
Baxter says their tools that can help, like the website www.hackthevax.org.
Created by the not-for-profit Meg Foundation for Pain, the site has coping tips specifically for adults who are afraid of needles.
There is a feature that allows a person to create a step-by-step plan for how to get through their next shot appointment.
"The adults can just hand (it) to the doctor or pharmacist," Dr. Baxter says. "It says, 'I have a problem with fainting. Don't tell me here it comes, because that's going to make it worse. Let me have a friend, let me hold someone's hand. I'm going to use Buzzy. I'm going to use topical anesthetic. For adults, cold spray is effective and something called ShotBlocker is effective."
If you are worried about fainting, she recommends scheduling an appointment to limit waiting time and trying to get in and out as quickly as possible.
"Have a place to sit down, because if you have to stand and wait, the likelihood of fainting goes up," Dr. Baxter says.
Drink a couple of glasses of water before your appointment to make sure you are well-hydrated, which can help ease dizziness, she says.
To calm yourself, focus on your breathing, taking deep, slow breaths.
"One really big tip is to tense the stomach muscles while you're getting the shot," Baxter says. "When you start feeling woozy, when you're getting the injection, lift up a knee. By pulling a knee up, you're going to push blood back to your head."
If looking at the needle makes you nervous, find ways to distract yourself.
Baxter recommends looking off in the distance and counting something.
You may want to scroll through your social media or play a videogame on your phone.
"A good distraction is going to have concentration and a visual component," she says. "If you have a game on an iPhone or something where you have to trace letters, that can certainly be a good distraction."
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