*Eeeks* I think I have the death grip on my husband’s hands.“Don’t look,” he says.I may have brown skin, but if you were to see me I’m sure I’d look deathly pale.“You’ve got tiny veins,” says the lady. She swaps to the other arm. There are 3 tiny holes now on my arm. Great.You’d think someone was draining my blood ala vampire style by my antics.I should probably be used to this.I’ve only done this like a hundred times.And I am.Over it, that is.Kind of.Last time’s “experience” brought back my anxiety. I was jabbed a little too many times and it left a bruise not only on my arm but obviously my mental health lol.I’m sure you’ve guessed it from my less than stellar pun in the title – I was getting a blood test.
While I don’t cry, scream or bite (yes, I said bite) like I used to as a child, my fear of needles has always been in the back of my head. But that’s not to say that fear stops me from getting jabbed once a month. In fact, I welcome it.That anxiety, rush of nerves, makes me feel alive and I know it’s for a good cause.But after last time’s experience I can’t help but wonder – how come sometimes I can get tests done that are pretty much painless, a little prick doesn’t hurt, and then other times it feels like a steel plate in my arm and I can’t move it for days. Did I do something different? What makes it easier for both the person drawing the blood and the one giving the blood? Are there tips for getting blood tests out there?
Comfy ways to draw blood tips
In this week’s blog post I set out to find out the answers, crowd-sourcing as you might say. From online friends comments to in-person conversations with regular blood givers, here’s what we found works (and there are TONS of ideas as you can see below):
- Keep hydrated. Drink lots of water before the blood test, it makes your veins more plump and accessible = minimally painless blood tests < pretty much every person I talked to mentioned this
- Keep distracted. Listen to music with your headphone and favorite song while they take blood – it’ll take your mind off things
- Keep the blood flowing.
- 1) Hold a cold and/or hot compress for 30mins before the test. You can also hold a compressed pack in your hand while getting the test done. Both hot/cold gets the blood flowing.
- 2) Engage in light exercise before. It helps your blood warm up and pumping. For example, park as far away as possible from the pathology, and then walk briskly to get there.
- 3) Being warm increases your blood circulation, which makes it easier for the phlebotomist to find a vein. While you are waiting, you may want to leave your coat or sweater on and let your arm dangle down to increase the blood pressure in the veins. If your blood is difficult to draw, lie down and warm your hands under a heating pad or blanket
- Know yourself. After getting a few tests, ask the person doing the test which vein was easiest for them to get blood from. You’ll also learn which arm you prefer and feel most comfortable with < personally, I prefer to use my left arm for blood tests, and guide them first to the cephalic vein or the outer arm vein.
- Remember to breathe and stay positive. Going in with so much tension, tenses you arms too and makes blood harder to flow if things don’t go easy the first time try to relax and keep your humor about you
- Be honest
- 1) Let the person know ahead of time that your veins are difficult, and if you have any fears. Unfortunately, some people think that they are better at this than they are. Also, try to get your blood drawn by an actual lab technician, they draw blood all day long that is their job, rather than a normal nurse< I’ve also found that if you’re like me and take medicine like aspiring (blood flows really easily) vs prednisone (after taking it long term it can also make bruising easier and veins can collapse/get blown easier) so this is something for both the technician and yourself to be aware of – the kinds of medicine you take.
- 2) If you are nervous, scared of blood tests or have a tendency to feel woozy or faint, tell the phlebotomist before you begin. Your blood can be drawn while you are lying down, which will help you avoid fainting and injuring yourself. If, at any time, you feel faint or lightheaded, tell the phlebotomist or someone nearby. Putting your head between your knees or lying down should make you feel better soon.
- 3) Ask for someone else if the person drawing your blood isn’t successful after two tries for finding a good vein in your arm to draw from, it’s fine to ask another nurse or the phlebotomist to try. Don’t allow yourself to be turned into a pincushion for an inexperienced practitioner or someone who is struggling to find a vein to use.
- If you have small and deep veins, request a butterfly needle. Ask the lab technician if it is possible to use this if they did not already choose this. These are smaller needles that have rubber tubes in between the needle and the collection vial. These are great not just because the needle is smaller, but because the rubber tube in between the needle and the vial means that when the nurse needs to change vial (I usually fill 5-6 vials each blood test time) the rubber absorbs the motion and the needle doesn’t jiggle in your arm.
- Know your angles. Sometimes certain angles hope your veins to pop out more so perhaps putting them on top of a pillow
- Pump that blood.
- 1) With a squishy ball in your hand, you can help get the blood pumping and ready to be drawn by squeezing the ball repeatedly until blood has been drawn
- 2) Pump your hand several times before the stick. If the actual stick hurts, ask if they have “cold spray” or “j-tip”
- Look away. Don’t look at the needle, and don’t watch it being inserted. It’s better to not look.
- Be aware if it’s around that time of the month ladies. It usually hurts more if your blood test is the week before your period.
- At the end always thank the person if they do a good and painless job, it makes everyone feel better. Remember that person’s name too, they might become your regular go-to person for blood tests.
- Afterward, avoid using the arm that the blood was drawn from. Do not lift anything heavy with this arm too.
I hope these tips help you as much as they have helped me and my friends.Want to share your blood test experiences? Comment below, or join on the conversation on my Autoimmune facebook
page. Remember it’s okay to be afraid, let’s do things afraid together. Smiles and hugs, Cami xo