Medical Q&As

Blood tests - afraid of needles?

I am due before a consultant shortly and I know he will want to do blood tests. However, I am unbelievably afraid of needles and blood taking. Is there something they can use to numb the area before inserting the needle?

Yes, there is a product you can use but your GP will need to prescribe it for you. The product is called EMLA cream and it contains a local anaesthetic agent. You should apply the cream to the skin before your appointment. The skin becomes anaesthetised within an hour of application and the effect lasts for two to three hours in total, which should give you plenty of time for your appointment and the taking of the blood samples. Blood samples are normally taken from the arm near to the skin crease at the elbow. The veins in front of the elbow are usually visible and I would suggest that you look at both arms and apply the cream over the largest visible vein. If your GP or practice nurse has the time you might ask one of them to pinpoint exactly where you should apply the cream. When you are about to have the blood samples taken make sure that you tell the phlebotomist that you have applied the anaesthetic cream and which elbow you have applied it to. Having gone to the trouble of using the cream you donít want the phlebotomist proceeding to take the blood from the wrong arm! EMLA cream is mainly used with young children in hospital before the insertion of a drip delivery system but the dose of anaesthetic should be perfectly adequate for use in an adult. Remember that an anaesthetic only removes pain and does not eliminate all sensation. You will feel the phlebotomist touching your skin and you might even feel the coldness of the swab before the needle is inserted. I make that specific point to you because sometimes people think that the anaesthetic is not working if they feel any sensation in the numbed area. The anaesthetic simply removes the pain.