Children predictably, fear the needle.

Belonephobia or needlephobia is the marked and persistent fear of needles or any sharp object. A person exposed to anything associated with needles will almost immediately feel anxious and may even develop a panic attack.

Among the symptoms manifested by this fear are rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, tremor, feeling faint or actual fainting, nausea, and feelings of panic. A full-blown panic attack can occur if the individual believes that escape is impossible.

Studies have shown that belonephobia actually afflicts up to 10% of the population, and they usually start from a young age. Adolescents and adults may recognise that their fear is unreasonable, but children may not.

Most of us of course, do not have the morbid fear of needles, although many people fear needle-sticks to some extent. However, once that fear becomes persistent, excessive, and unreasonable, the fear becomes a phobia. Others faint just by waiting in line for injections. Persons afflicted with belonephobia may also go to great lengths to avoid needle-sticks.

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The fear of needle becomes serious when people who have beloneophobia actually require procedures that use needles like blood tests, immunisations, dental work, and even life-saving minor procedures such as skin biopsies or vaccinations.

Getting vaccinated for example, is not only for infants and children. The elderly are especially encouraged to get vaccinated against the flu and pneumococcal disease because of the potential complications that can result from this.

Elderly patients who suffer from chronic heart and lung disease need the most protection because an infection like pneumonia can worsen their condition. Even a bout of flu can sometimes cause severe complications.

Healthcare practitioners are also encouraged to get the flu vaccination as they could 'help' spread the flu even faster in the course of their work with patients.

On safety concerns, vaccines these days are so well researched that cases of systemic side-effects are very rare, although they cannot be totally excluded. This is why patients must be vaccinated in the premise of a healthcare practitioner who is prepared for any eventuality.

However, the proverb 'prevention is better than cure' is definitely true here as the benefits of long-term protection far outweigh the fear of short-term pain.

Children predictably, fear the needle. Thankfully, vaccination for infants and children is actively encouraged by the government. One can imagine the amount of trouble a paediatrician has to go through in vaccinating a particularly difficult child.

Factor and Tips

Most people who fear needles have a history of experiencing deep numbing pain after an injection as a child and are never prepared to go for another injection again.

Children also normally dislike the environment in which they receive their injections e.g. hospitals or clinics. All these factors together make a serious negative experience and impression on them.

The majority of needlephobia victims believe that this fear of needle problem is 'all in their head'. Therefore, it is important that they are aware that there exists such a pathological problem, and that there is actually a physiological explanation to their problem.

Patients are advised to talk openly to their doctors or to nurses, and to be reassured that their healthcare practitioners are able to help them with appropriate suggestions and techniques.

Medical staff, friends and parents can inform the patient on what is going to happen, how it will be done and why it needs to be done.

For a child, you could read a story book to them while the procedure is being administered. Other than that, you could bring toys or teddy bears along to the clinic so that the child could feel at home and be comfortable in the environment.

Paediatricians sometimes adorn the needles with stress-reducing pictures, like butterflies, flowers and smiley faces to associate happy elements with the sharp objects.

If fear of pain from the injection is the main reason, physicians could provide medication, like 'magic cream', which are topical anaesthetics to temporarily numb the nerves before the procedure.

Some persistent, severe fear of needles cases would require oral medication like anti-anxiety agents, which are given a few hours before injection. For lighter medication, patients can opt for paracetamol.

Sweets have also been known to have calming and analgesic effects in some infants.

Other helpful tips to minimise severe fear of needles include :

* Do a backward count before and during the injections are given. Relax and tell your doctors what your strategy is, and they will know what to do.

* Just go for it. You do not want to spend any time longer than you already do in the clinic.

* Do not look at the needle.

* Tell yourself that you are bigger than this and it will end in no time.

* If you feel faint or dizzy at the sight and thought of a needle, may be it’s time that you consult a psychologist.

More info on BELONEPHOBIA here.

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