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Amid COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, Internal Medicine Physician Advises Patients on Fear of Needles

Covington, Ga. (Feb. 16, 2021) – The administration of COVID-19 vaccines may eventually bring an end to the pandemic, but, for the millions of Americans who suffer from fear of needles, it also brings a new level of anxiety to an already challenging health crisis.

According to Samantha Avoke, M.D., a Piedmont Healthcare internal medicine physician in Covington, trypanophobia, which is a fear of medical procedures involving the use of hypodermic needles or injections, is incredibly common, even in adults. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 25 percent of adults in the U.S. have a fear of needles.

“People with a fear of needles often avoid getting vaccines, such as an annual flu vaccine,” said Dr. Avoke. “Someone with a severe needle phobia that causes extreme anxiety may avoid all forms of medical care which can be very dangerous.”

While each individual’s case is different, Dr. Avoke explains that there are three common factors she sees in her practice that contribute to a patient’s fear of needles.

“Patients may develop a fear of needles from a previously negative experience with needles, either from a personal experience or a second-hand experience,” said Dr. Avoke.

Some patients may have a high sensitivity to the pain caused by an injection, while others’ fear may be the result of a psychological resistance to being pierced by a sharp object. Roughly 10 percent of the population suffers from an inherited automatic reflex of shock triggered by a needle stick. While the origins of the fear are vastly different for each patient, many exhibit similar reactions when receiving an injection.

Common symptoms of trypanophobia include:

  • Dizziness/light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Racing Heart Rate
  • Shaking or trembling
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Some patients may have rare reaction called a vasovagal reflex reaction where he or she may faint during or after an injection.

Treatment for needle fear or phobia can include reassurance and education, muscle tension techniques, topical anesthesia applied to the area prior to injection, or, in some cases, medication.

“I encourage patients to speak with their doctor about any concerns or fears they may have about getting the COVID-19 vaccine, even their fear of needles,” said Dr. Avoke. “It is very important that everyone who can be vaccinated against this coronavirus is, and your doctor can help you address your fear so, when the time comes, you’ll feel more comfortable receiving your COVID-19 vaccine.”

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