Do you get nervous when you hear the word “vaccine?” Many people do because they what it means — a shot in the arm.
Fear of needles is real. Trypanophobia is an extreme fear of medical procedures involving injections or hypodermic needles. That fear may outweigh the benefits of vaccinations like the yearly flu shot and the new COVID-19 vaccine.
Many people even forego preventive measures like routine blood tests to check cholesterol and glucose levels because of their anxiety about needles.
Immunizations, and the injections that come with them, are important tools for keeping us healthy. That’s especially true as we attempt to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many times, children have needle anxiety. They may hide from the doctor or scream hysterically when they need vaccinations or allergy shots. Usually, though, children grow out of their fear. But not everyone. Even in young adulthood, 20 to 30 percent of people are still skittish of needles or worse, have major panic attacks because of their fear.
In fact, some 16 percent of adults avoid their yearly flu vaccine because of it.
When your turn comes to get the COVID-19 vaccine, don’t let the fear of an injection prevent you from getting this critical vaccination.
Before a Shot
Get in the right mindset before you even get near the door of your doctor’s office or pharmacy.
This means thinking positively about the experience instead of worrying about it. The more you worry, the more your body will tense up. That means your arm, too, where the shot will be given.
Meditation can help significantly manage your anxiety whether it is about needles and/or other concerns. Many free mindfulness apps and videos can help you learn to manage your anxiety and stress. Start practicing it a few weeks before your vaccination.
Talk to your nurse, doctor or pharmacist about your fear. They may use a smaller needle or a numbing agent to help get you through the vaccination. They will also be aware of your anxiety and can watch for the onset of a panic attack.
During the Shot
A shot only takes a few seconds, but it’s the waiting to get the shot that may make your palms sweat, your heart race and your mind overload.
Don’t fall into the fear pit.
- Distract yourself. Take your earbuds with you to your appointment and listen to relaxing music. Watch a funny video or listen to a favorite podcast. Stare at the clouds and turn them into formations. Count backward from 100. Recite the alphabet in reverse. Play a game on your phone.
- Don’t look at the needle. Tell the nurse about your fear. Tell them you do not want to know when the shot goes in. If you don’t know, you may not even feel it.
- Take deep, slow breaths. Deep breathing can reduce daily and situational anxiety by directing your focus on your breath.
- Relax your muscles. This can make the shot less painful.
- Squeeze and release your muscles. Tell your medical provider if you have fainted before or during your shot. They may ask you to tense your muscles in sequence or squeeze a ball until the procedure is finished.
After the Shot
It’s not uncommon to have mild side effects from vaccinations. Here are some post-procedure recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Move your arm around gently. This can help reduce pain or swelling in the vaccinated arm.
- Put a cool, wet washcloth on the injection site. This can help reduce soreness from the injection.
- Take an over-the-counter non-aspirin pain reliever. Some vaccines cause soreness at the injection site or general muscle aches. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s okay to take a nonprescription pain reliever, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) after your vaccination. Acetaminophen may interfere with the effectiveness of some vaccines. That’s why it’s important to ask your medical provider if it is okay to take it.
If you do have a major fear of shots, the continuous COVID-19 vaccine news may be stressing you out. You may feel like there is no way you will be able to get this important vaccine because of your fear. Talk to your doctor, who may refer you to a trained mental health professional. A mental health professional can develop a plan to help you overcome your fear with various exercises.
Sometimes, just talking to someone about your fear helps alleviate it.
Vaccinations are important to your overall health. That’s especially true during a pandemic. Conquer your fear and get comfortable getting the shots you need.