Tips For Making a Blood Draw Easier

7 Ways to Make Having Your Blood Drawn Less Painful

Blood Tests Image
Blood Tests. Image: © Nicholas Everleigh/Getty Images

Having blood drawn is different for everyone. Some people aren't bothered by it at all, while others worry that they may pass out at the sight of a needle. In the hands of a skilled phlebotomist or nurse, a blood draw shouldn't be painful, but you may experience some brief discomfort.

Regardless of whether having your blood drawn is no big deal or a major issue for you, some quick preparation for your blood draw can make the process much easier.

How Blood Is Drawn

The procedure for drawing blood, called venipuncture, is simple. In most cases, your blood will be drawn by a nurse or a phlebotomist — a person specially trained to draw blood. First, the site of the blood draw is cleaned with alcohol or another cleanser which will clean the area and remove germs. Then a tourniquet is tied above the site of the draw — such as the upper arm — to maximize the amount of blood in the vein while blood is drawn.

Once the tourniquet is in place, a needle is gently pushed into the vein, and blood is collected. While the blood is being collected, the tourniquet is typically removed to allow blood to flow more easily. Once the blood has been drawn, the needle is removed, and pressure may be held on the site for a short while — or a small bandage may be placed over the site.

There are many blood tests that will obviously necessitate blood draw, and if you're having surgery, multiple blood tests may be necessary to determine if you're a good surgical candidate.

Preparing to Have Your Blood Drawn

Full veins are plumper than veins that aren't as full. If you're having blood drawn, unless you've been told not to eat or drink, make sure you are well-hydrated. This simple step will make it far easier for the person who is taking your blood to find a vein that can easily be punctured, and far easier for you because your veins will be much easier to find and access.

 

Ideally, start drinking more fluids the day before your blood draw, and continue to drink water before you have your blood drawn. Excessive amounts aren't necessary; most sources recommend that an adult drink 64 ounces of water per day for good health, which is more than adequate for having your blood drawn. Limit caffeine, which acts as a mild diuretic and increases the amount of urine you produce.

Tips to Help Stay Calm During Blood Draws

1. Breathe

Don't hold your breath while blood is drawn. Some people hold their breath in anticipation of the insertion of the needle, which doesn't help at all if you're feeling faint. Keep breathing at your normal rate and depth, and you'll be far less likely to feel lightheaded during a blood draw. If the potential for pain is making you nervous, the phlebotomist may have numbing medication available to minimize the pain.

2. Be Honest

If you are someone who has fainted in the past when donating blood or having your blood drawn, be sure to tell the person who will be drawing your blood. If there is the slightest chance of fainting during a blood draw, positioning is key. You shouldn't sit on top of the exam table; rather, you should be positioned in a low chair where falling is unlikely.

 In extreme cases, a patient can sit on a cushion on or near the floor rather than risking a fall if fainting is likely. 

3. Don't Look

If having your blood drawn makes you feel queasy, don't watch while your blood is drawn. For some, the sight of blood is the problem, so not watching while blood is collected can easily solve that problem. Look away, read a magazine, or watch television or whatever will distract you from the procedure.

If you must, wear headphones, or even sing.  Why singing--simple, you can hold your breath and sing as the same time, which decreases your chances of passing out.

 

4. Ask For Someone Else

If the person drawing your blood isn't successful after two tries, it's reasonable to ask for another nurse or phlebotomist to try. Don't allow yourself to be turned into a pin cushion for an inexperienced practitioner or someone who is struggling to find a vein to use. Don't hesitate to ask for the best, most accomplished blood drawing professional in the building--trust me, the staff will know who that person is if they do enough blood draws. 

5. Ask For a Smaller Needle

The phlebotomist can try using a smaller needle, called a butterfly needle, which is large enough to draw blood but often works well on small veins. It is perfectly acceptable to let staff know you need a smaller needle.  Don't hesitate to ask for what you need!

6. Sit Still

If you're moving and wiggling while someone is attempting to draw your blood, it's likely that he will have to make more attempts to obtain the sample. Sit still. Even if you are nervous, it's important to refrain from wiggling and fidgeting, or you could potentially add to the number of pokes required to draw your blood.

7. Ask For Numbing Medication

There are medications that can be rubbed on the skin where a draw will be performed a few minutes prior to the procedure that numb the area. If you find having your blood drawn very painful, consider asking for a numbing agent prior to the draw, if it is available.  The effect is temporary and is the medication is only used on a small area, so it is considered very safe.  It is most frequently used for young patients but is available for adults as well. 

A Word From Verywell

The single most important thing you can do to have a good experience is to be honest with the person drawing your blood.  If you are dehydrated and need 30 minutes to drink some water, say so.   If you pass out at the blood, speak up.  Don't let the staff find out the hard way that you need extra support when having your blood drawn, and you can expect to get the help you need.

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