While it’s true that blood tests are quick, safe and usually painless, they’re not always easy to face. That’s because many of us suffer from a phobia of needles (trypanophobia) or blood (haemophobia) and it’s little comfort to be told your fear is simply irrational.
If you’re anxious about blood tests, the best thing you can do is let your phlebotomist (the person taking your blood) know. Try to put your embarrassment aside and let them help you through it. Give them details about experiences in the past where it’s been difficult to draw blood, or you’ve felt faint or nauseated.
It’s likely they’ve heard it before and know how to help. If you feel faint they can recline your chair or take your blood while you lie on a couch or bed.
Anxiety builds when you obsessively overthink a situation. During a blood test, distract yourself by any means possible. The key to this is never looking at the needle.
First, ask if your test requires a period of fasting. If it does, try to fast for the minimum time allowed. If it’s 12 hours, book your test for first thing in the morning so you’re only skipping one meal. Most blood tests don’t require fasting so make sure you’re well fed and have had plenty of water.
Low blood sugar, a consequence of skipping meals, can contribute to feeling faint, while dehydration lowers the amount of available fluid in your body and can make it more difficult to draw blood. Drinking plenty of water promotes fuller veins and brings them closer to the surface for easier access.
Low temperatures shrink your veins, making it difficult for the phlebotomist to find an appropriate location to insert the needle. This can draw out the process and make you more nervous. If you’re a typically cold person, or outside temperatures are low, do everything you can to stay warm and get circulation flowing. Wear warm clothing and go for a brisk walk before your appointment.