My Top 5 Tips To Avoid Painful Blood Draws and IVs

Getting your blood drawn can turn into a painful and unpleasant event real fast. Oh yes, I have had my fair share of horrific moments with a nurse and needle. Those of us with Crohn's or colitis are no strangers to being pricked.

I once was in the hospital for a severe flare and no one could manage to get my IV in due to major dehydration. I was poked 6 times and had a vein blow before finally, a nurse was able to come to the rescue on the seventh prick.

On the flip side, I have had pleasant encounters as well, where I didn’t even know anything happened. Aren’t those the best, when a nurse gloriously finds your vein on the first prick? Not only that but it is the most gentle process that leaves you feeling zero stress or anxiety. Those nurses deserve medals!

Over my years as an IBD patient, being hooked up to IVs and having blood drawn, I’ve learned a couple of things. So here are some tips:

1. Suggest a vein

If you have been poked and prodded for years, you have probably noticed that there is a certain arm and vein that most nurses go for that end up working. For me, it’s my left arm and a vein that is just below my elbow fold.

Typically, before a nurse pokes you they ask if you’d like it done on a specific arm. My tip is to tell them exactly where. Don’t be nonchalant and say it doesn’t matter. 

You have the most experience in your body, and you’ve been watching yourself get poked for years, so help point them to what will work.

2. Hydrate before a blood draw

Our hydration is something we have control over when we have an appointment to get blood drawn. So make sure you take advantage of this. 

If you are dehydrated, you are just asking for trouble. It has been suggested to me by many nurses to start hydrating yourself the day before you draw blood. If you think chugging a bottle of water on your way to your appointment will do the trick, it sadly won’t.

The flip side to this is how about the moments you are deathly ill, dehydrated, and need an IV while in the hospital. Well, there isn’t much you can do here. However, if you know your dehydration is severe, and your hospital nurse isn’t able to find a workable vein, suggest they give you time to drink some water or an electrolyte drink. 

I feel like there is the pressure at the hospital to rush everything. Tell the medical team you’d like them to pump the breaks, in order for you to hydrate a bit so that your veins can liven up. This can save you from an awful poking experience.

3. Say no to a moving needle

Moving needle? What? Okay, what I mean by this is the following: Have you ever had a nurse prick you, then start to literally move the needle while inside your arm because they missed the vein? Well, I have, and it feels very unpleasant.

I have had this happen to me so many times that I have lost count, and each time I would just take the unpleasantness. Well, as I’ve matured, I’ve changed. Guess what, I have zero tolerance for this anymore. I know my body, so I speak up. 

From the beginning of the process, I tell the nurse politely, if you miss the vein, please don’t move the needle around, I would just prefer we start over. Any time I tell a nurse this, they completely agree with me, never take it personally, and I feel so much better knowing that I don’t have to go through that.

4. Ask for a phlebotomist

If you naturally have hard veins, when you are in the hospital you can always ask for a phlebotomist to draw your blood or start your IV. For the most part, a phlebotomist has way more experience with poking than a nurse because that is all they do all day long. 

They have tons of experience with all sorts of veins, so if you know you are a hard case, this is an option you can use. This is NOT to say nurses are not capable because they certainly are. It’s just an option that not many know is available, and can be used if by chance the nurses on that shift are finding difficulty getting a vein going.

5. Be patient

Always remember, if you are having a bad experiencing being poked, take deep breaths and try not to get nasty with medical staff

At the end of the day, their jobs are incredibly hard, and although we are suffering from symptoms, it’s important to work together. So be kind and be patient.

How about you? Any tips you’ve learned through your journey of being poked and prodded? Share below!

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