How to Get Through Your COVID Shot If You Really Hate Needles

How to Get Through Your COVID Shot If You Really Hate Needles

If you’re one of the millions of adults who avoid needles at all costs, you might be straight-up dreading your first COVID vaccine. Unfortunately, the best plan of action is to get it over with. It won’t be fun or even painless, but with a little preparation, you can make the experience suck a lot less.

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First, I want to say it’s OK to feel nervous or afraid before getting any shot at any time, let alone in a semi-public setting during a global pandemic. Needle phobia is no joke — common symptoms include vomiting, panic attacks, and full-blown vasovagal response, and once they’ve started, you’re basically powerless to stop them. While there’s nothing shameful about any of these physiological reactions, I know from experience the potential for humiliation is way worse than any physical discomfort. If you’re in the same boat and already totally freaking out, take a deep breath. You can do this — you just need to prepare yourself, and take it easy.

Plan for the worst

Not to start off on a huge downer, but I’ve found that the best way to prevent needle-related episodes is to assume they’ll happen and plan accordingly. In practice, this mostly means making sure you can get home safely even if you become incapacitated. Bring a trusted friend or family member to your appointment if you can; if you can’t, make sure someone’s available to pick you up. Don’t forget to pack a snack, too. Choose any food you love, plus a can of your favourite full-sugar soda — it’ll get glucose into your bloodstream ASAP if you pass out, and settle your stomach if you have to barf. I know it sounds basic, but trust me: Soda is a lifesaver.

Distract yourself

Research shows watching cartoons or playing video games makes it easier for kids to get through painful, scary medical procedures like vaccinations and venipuncture (blood draws). My extensive anecdotal experience suggests that it works great for adults, too. To be perfectly honest, the only reason I don’t pass out during blood draws anymore is because I can zone out and stare at baby animals on my phone. While you wait for your shot, queue up some soothing video content on your phone — kittens, puppies, Vine compilations, makeup tutorials, ASMR, or anything else that makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

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Kids’ doctor visits can be fun, right up to the point where the nurse or doc pulls out a hypodermic needle. But if you have a phone or tablet handy, you can reduce the amount of pain your child feels by showing her a cartoon while she gets the shot.

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Communicate

Let the vaccine tech know you’re bad with needles the second your butt hits the chair (or you roll your car window down). Keep it short, specific, and practical; my go-to line is something like, “Hey, I’m really bad with needles, so I’m going to look at puppies on Instagram to distract myself. Please don’t tell me when it’s going in, just let me know when it’s over. I haven’t fainted from one of these in a very long time, but if I do, there’s a can of Coke in my purse.” They don’t need to know why you hate needles, just what to expect and how to make the process easier for you.

This brings me to the final and most important point: Don’t look at the needle! As far as you’re concerned, it doesn’t exist; in fact, it has never existed. You’ve never even heard of a needle. Open up your phone, focus on a nice, soothing video, and scroll mindlessly until it’s over.

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