12 Tips for Easier Blood Draws & Pokes

Getting a needle stick can be traumatic, but there are plenty of tricks to help.

This is me getting an infusion intravenously. I’m always a difficult stick and I wish I had known about some of these tips before hand!

We all know those magical people who act like getting a needle shoved in the most vulnerable part of their arm ain’t-no-thing, but then there are those of us who cry before, during, and after. Here are some legitimately useful tips for you (or your child) that we think will help the process a lot:

  1. Place hot, moist towels over your arms for 10 minutes or so prior to a stick in order to plump up the veins. Usually the hospital staff can provide these if you ask beforehand.
  2. If you seriously have HORRIBLE veins and it really never works, see if the nurse would be willing/able to use a child-size butterfly needle on you, even if you’re an adult. It may take longer for your blood to come through, or for your meds to be administered, but it’s totally worth it if it means getting it in the vein on the first try.
  3.  Take deep breaths. Breathing sounds like something even Captain Obvious himself would roll his eyes at, but whether we recognize or not, we often tense up and forget to breathe in anticipation of the stick. Bad idea. Stress causes constriction. True story. So relaaaaaaaax. Or if you can’t relax, just breathe. We all gotta start somewhere. At the very least, take one deep breath just before the stick, then release the breath for the actual stick.
  4. Meditate before going to the clinic. If you have anxiety from needles or past pokes gone awry, take time before you leave and envision the stick going perfectly: No pain… Only takes one try to get into the vein… Over quickly and leave with a smile… And you might as well envision finding a $20 in the gutter next to your car, just for kicks. There is power in positive thinking. Negative thinking often spirals out of control. Meditate. Find your center. Expect a bright experience.
  5.  Numbing spray/creams. There are two downsides to these, which are that they can potentially constrict the veins, and that they take time to work. The upside is that they numb the area, which make the pokes relatively pain-free. You’re going to have to prioritize on this one. If you have giant veins that are easy to access in the first place, or if you have a port, but you loathe needles and are terrified of the actual poke, this might be perfect for you. However if your veins are difficult to access, you don’t have a port, and you’re in a huge hurry (like in the emergency room, for example), then don’t even think about it.
  6. Stay hydrated! Drink water deliberately and often on the day of a stick. Your expanded veins will thank you!
  7.  Stay warm. Wear removable layers, like a jacket and scarf. This will help your veins be more visible and accessible. Making your arms warmer than room temperature will go a long way.
  8.  Use gravity. This will help to engorge the veins with blood and make them nice and plump for a stick. Blood pools with gravity. If possible, lay down with your legs up and and allow your arm to dangle down below your heart,  so as to increase the blood flow to the veins in your arm as much as possible.
  9. Flick your veins. If you stimulate your skin near the vein with a few firm flicks with your finger or some similar gesture (whatever works for you), you will help your veins to grow temporarily, and therefore, easier to find. Some nurses and doctors use this practice regularly anyway, but you can always double up on a few vein flicks!
  10. buzzyxlblackAsk your doctor about using a Buzzy® which is a brilliant little device that uses ice and vibration simultaneously to overwhelm the body’s pain nerves psychologically. It serves as a pain blocker that provides natural pain relief in seconds. It was invented by an emergency pediatrician and pain researcher. The clinic you go to may already have these available, but if not, you can purchase your own for personal-use. Learn more here.
  11. There is also something called a vein-finder/vein viewer. They are devices which use direct projection vein illumination to identify the vein patterns on a patient’s skin. They can make venipuncture procedures much easier. Not all hospitals have them, and even if they do, they might be exclusively housed in the emergency room or a pediatric unit. This means that often, they are only available upon request. But if you’re truly desperate, it wouldn’t hurt to ask.
  12. Lastly, when possible, bring a friend or family member with you for moral support. They can be a great and welcome distraction in times of stress and anxiety. You can ask them to maintain eye contact with you, tell you jokes, do something silly, etc. At the right moment, they can save you from focusing too much on pain, and help you turn your mind to more pleasant or goofy things. Just remember to hold still! Laughing may cause unwanted arm-jiggling, and you certainly don’t want that!


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