An estimated 10 percent of the population suffers from belonephobia, a fear of needles. And it's probably safe to say that a much larger percentage simply doesn't like them.

The reasons are pretty simple—needles can be an unpleasant experience. There's the pain factor, ranging from the temporary pinch or sting you feel when your skin is punctured, to a deeper muscle ache in your arm or backside that can last a day or longer. There's also the icky feeling of watching your own blood flow from your arm through a tube into numerous vials for testing.

But these don't change the fact that needles are very necessary, and very important, in modern healthcare—they're the preferred way for doctors, nurses, and phlebotomists to draw blood, give immunizations, and sometimes administer medication.

The good news is, new needles are being developed to minimize the pain and stress of these procedures.

The Skinny on New Needles

These days, "shorter," "thinner," and "faster" are the buzzwords when it comes to designing needles for medical use. Shorter needles, no thicker than a strand of hair, can be used to administer shots that are only skin-deep. One example already in use is the Fluzone intradermal microinjector, which successfully uses a smaller-than-ever needle to deliver flu vaccine into the skin without hitting muscle. The result: no prolonged arm ache.

Today's tiny, more easily injected needles and needle systems are especially useful for people whose veins are hard to tap, those who have to test themselves or give themselves injections on a regular basis, such as people with diabetes and, of course, infants, children, and elderly men and women. They also help prevent accidental injury to healthcare workers, who constantly handle needles and are always at risk of pricking themselves.

If You're Afraid of Needles

To help yourself face the inevitable shot or blood draw, discuss your fears with your doctor, or with the nurse or technician who is administering the needle. This is especially important if you think you might faint. You may need medication to ease anxiety or a topical anesthetic to alleviate pain.

"The worst part for many patients is the anxiety of anticipation," says Karen Travis-Stover, a nurse practitioner in Tampa, FL. "The best thing you can do is distract yourself by reading, or listening to music, or using a visualization technique like thinking about what the ocean looks like when the sun sparkles on it."

"Practice this right up until you get the shot, and, of course, look away while the shot is being administered."

Karen Travis-Stover, ARNP-C, MSN, MPH, reviewed this article.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine," Web. Updated 13 August 2013; accessed 30 September 2013