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Needles give some people high anxiety

As Canadians roll up their sleeves for the H1N1 vaccination, there willlikely be a few faces in the long lineups cringing at the thought ofwhat’s to come — perhaps not the vaccine itself, but the deliverymethod.

As Canadians roll up their sleeves for the H1N1 vaccination, there will likely be a few faces in the long lineups cringing at the thought of what’s to come — perhaps not the vaccine itself, but the delivery method.

Needles have been known to elicit tears and even fainting episodes among those queasy, anxious or fearful about being pricked. And experts say festering thoughts of potential imminent pain from a shot could weigh on some people’s decisions about whether to get vaccinated in the first place.

“I think people may have concerns about vaccines for a variety of reasons, but pain and the actual fear of getting the injection is often the barrier that prevents people from getting the vaccine,” said pediatric psychologist Christine Chambers, a Canada Research Chair in pain and child health, based at Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre in Halifax.

“Certainly people who are anxious in general are more likely to be fearful about other consequences and other side-effects that they see might be associated with the vaccine.”

Five to 10 per cent of people will admit to not getting vaccinated because of pain, said Anna Taddio, an adjunct scientist and pharmacist at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

Chambers and Taddio say there are strategies that can help effectively reduce pain as well as anxiety, particularly among young people.

Chambers recommends parents purchase a topical anesthetic cream that can significantly reduce pain. Taddio suggests applying a numbing cream 30 minutes beforehand — a cream that uses the same chemicals dentists use in patients’ mouths.

For infants, breastfeeding during injections can help reduce pain. Distracting a child’s attention away from pain could include talking to or giving small toys to babies and young kids, or bringing a small DVD player or iPod along.

Taddio said it’s beneficial for children four and up to know about the needle beforehand because explaining what’s going to happen will help to prepare them.

 
 
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