Conquer Your Fear of Needles

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Needles One Milliliter

Does the idea of a needle prick make you want to run for cover? These days, medications for many conditions—such as arthritis, diabetes, psoriasis, and certain mental health conditions—are delivered through injections. The thought of receiving injections or giving them to yourself may seem terrifying, but overcoming your fear is possible. It's also important, because the fear could keep you from taking the medications you need to manage your condition.

First off, it's important to understand the different types of injections.

Subcutaneous injections

Some medications are given subcutaneously, which means under the skin. Subcutaneous needles are very short and slender. You can give the injection to yourself or have a friend or family member do it. Either way, ask your doctor or pharmacist to show you or the person administering the injection how to do it correctly. How often you need to have the injection depends on your condition and the particular medication. Some are given daily, whereas others are spaced several weeks apart.

Keep these guidelines in mind when injecting at home:

  • Always read the instructions that come with your medication.

  • Check the instructions or ask your doctor where on your body you should inject the medication. The most common sites include your thighs, stomach, upper arm, or buttocks.

  • To minimize pain, use a different site on your body for each injection. Keeping a log of where you have given injections can prevent you from injecting that spot again.

  • Do not inject near a vein that you can see.
  • Never re-use a syringe. It's unsanitary and potentially dangerous.
  • Avoid areas where the skin is bruised, irritated, or tender, or where you have scars or stretch marks.

Intravenous medications

Other medications are given intravenously, through a vein. You'll have to go to your doctor's office or an infusion center to receive these medications. Some are done in as little as 30 minutes, while others take several hours and require you to spend most of the day at the place you receive the treatment.

Easing the fear

Try these strategies to overcome your needle worries:

Focus on the goal. If you're concerned about the pain an injection might cause, try to concentrate on the intended outcome. For instance, the medication might help relieve inflammation and swelling in your body so you can feel better and go back to your favorite activities. Keeping this thought in mind can make a moment of needle-prick pain seem more manageable and worth it.

Be realistic. You might expect the pain to be worse than it actually is. Ask your doctor to talk you through each step of the injection process before it happens so you can feel prepared. Ask questions if there's anything you're still worried about.

Distract yourself. If you're receiving an intravenous infusion at a clinic, try listening to music or podcasts. Reading a book or magazine or talking with another patient can take your mind off of the treatment. 

Keep good company. Ask a friend or family member to be with you when you get or give yourself an injection. They can provide moral support and help you celebrate the success of getting through the process.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 May 12

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