Throughout the world of medicine, allied health professionals encounter a wide range of patient concerns. While some are more rational than others, it’s important to learn how to deal with each fear in order to provide the best care possible! One of the most common situations for professionals in many allied health fields is encountering patients with a fear of needles. No matter a patient’s age, it’s possible for a person to completely lose their cool at the mention of receiving an injection! Considering that the use of needles is critical for a variety of procedures, we’ll discuss here ways to help patients with a fear of needles.
Similar to many other phobias, it’s not always the case that someone’s fear is rooted in rational thought. This makes it difficult to reason with people as to why they don’t have to fear the situation or certain stimulus. Other times, patients may react strongly to these types of things based on past traumatic experiences. Additionally, consider this set of phobias when discussing needles:
- Aichmophobia: The intense or morbid fear of sharp or pointed objects
- Algophobia: Intense or morbid fear of pain itself
- Belonephobia: An abnormal fear of sharp pointed objects, especially needles
- Enetophobia: A fear of pins
- Trypanophobia: The fear of injections
- Vaccinophobia: A fear of vaccines and vaccinations
Sources estimate that nearly 20 percent of the general population of the United States has some degree of fear associated with needles and receiving injections. Sure, sticking sharp metal tubes into the body isn’t your average idea of fun, but most people can deal with the momentary pain of getting shots.
Still, some individuals fear needles so severely that they may actually avoid receiving medical attention — something that can lead to other significant health risks. That’s why helping patients with a fear of needles to receive the treatment they require is critical!
3 Tips for Seeing Patients with a Fear of Needles:
1. Help them Accept their Feelings
Although the fear of receiving an injection is very real, many patients are embarrassed by their strong aversion to needles. The most severe phobias can cause people to panic and even lash out. Keep this in mind when helping them come to terms with the situation. It’s important to remind patients with a fear of needles that what they feel is real and by no means uncommon. This is often the first step to helping them accept what’s next!
2. Use local Anesthetics
While this is just a standard procedure, reassure patients that you’ll be using anesthetics to numb the injection site beforehand. Keep in mind that even the contact of their skin and an anesthetic can be enough to trigger knee-jerk reactions in patients. Therefore, avoid holding sharp or fragile objects during this step to limit the risk of injury.
Allowing patients to understand that these anesthetics reduce pain is a good way to help them relax and come to terms with the procedure.
3. The Art of Misdirection
Another way to help patients with a fear of needles is by employing what’s called the Gate Control Theory. Essentially, this theory posits that sensations like cold or vibration can disrupt pain as it travels to the brain. There are several aftermarket devices such as The Buzzy, which pairs both cooling pads and a vibrating module that distracts patients from the pain and experience of getting a shot. Other techniques actually involve elevating patients’ feet to shift their blood flow toward the brain to avoid fainting, and even cognitive therapy if the phobia is really severe.
In the end, using positive language, anesthetics, and various distraction methods can help patients with a fear of needles. It’s important to address each situation individually and employ these concepts as needed.
Have you dealt with patients with these types of phobias? How did you overcome the challenge? Let us know in the comments below!