As the COVID-19 vaccines near public distribution in the coming days or weeks, people who fear needles may be facing some additional anxiety as they weigh when and if to seek out the shot.
The approved vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective, and they’re the clear path out of the pandemic. But the fear of needles in adults can have deep roots in childhood and can make getting the shot a little scary.
“Needle fear or discomfort with needles is totally normal. The first step to helping people overcome that fear of needles is understanding that wanting to protect your body from pokes and pricks is a natural reaction,” says Dr. Diana Bottari, a pain management specialist based at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Dr. Bottari offered a few strategies that you can use if you’re scared of needles but still want to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
• Understand your feelings are normal. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s OK to be scared. If you acknowledge this, the fear could be easier to overcome.
• Take control. You can use a few strategies to dull the discomfort that comes with getting a shot. If you’re prepared to deal with the pain and know there are options in decreasing the pain, you might even be able to dull your fear or anxiety.
• Give yourself an incentive. Can’t wait to watch the finale of that show you’ve been bingeing? Have you been craving a good, fancy coffee? Tell yourself you can only have it if you face your fear.
• Self-care. Follow through on that incentive. Treat yourself. It’s hard out there.
Dr. Bottari also offered some strategies for taking control and dulling the pain once you get to your appointment for the shot. The key is to take your mind off it.
• Play a game on your phone or watch your favorite TV show or movie. You may not even feel it if your eyes are elsewhere
• Squeeze a stress ball. Take out your anxiety on something else.
• Scratch your arm. If you use your other hand to lightly scratch the area below or above where you are getting the shot, you might trick your brain into focusing on the scratch, not the shot. The reason why we tend to rub an area after we hurt it is because it tricks our brain and decreases pain.
• Just get it done. If you’re getting a shot as part of a doctor visit, ask to get it done at the start of the appointment. That way you’re not worrying about it the whole time.
• Use a cream. You can apply an over-the-counter numbing cream, like lidocaine cream, to your arm about 30 minutes before you’re set to get your shot. It can help with the discomfort, and it could give you peace of mind. People use these creams to decrease the pain for a variety of reasons from waxing to tattoos, and them to help you get protected from COVID.