Be it in Mauritius or abroad, most people when asked to donate blood, their main excuses are:
- They have no time, they are busy or they are afraid of needles, while,
- there are others who feel squeamish just at the very sight of blood
Afraid of needles: These are psychological fears where people are so afraid of medical needles that they can even avoid receiving medical care. They experience a rise in their blood pressure and heart rate in the hours and days leading up to the procedure. However, at the time of the event like after donating blood, their blood pressure may rapidly drop and enter into vasovegal reactions like fainting.
This fear of needles is called Trypanophobia (the fear of needles) is a very real phobia. However, for many people, receiving a blood donation is the difference between living and dying.
” Scientists are still unsure precisely what causes needle phobia. It seems to be inherited, as an estimated 80 percent of those who have the condition have a close relative that suffers from the same phobia. However, it’s possible that the fear is learned rather than biologically inherited.
Some evolutionary psychologists believe that the fear may be rooted in an ancient survival technique. Puncture wounds could be deadly, particularly in the days before modern antibiotics. It’s possible that a fear of puncturing the skin was an evolutionary adaptation.” Source: verywellmind.com)
Addressing the fears
Experts, however, believe fears can be addressed with proper explanation.
Dr Gandhi of Mayo Clinic says that: ” those afraid of needles to put their fear to rest by visiting a blood donation center to see the needles being used.
Fear of fainting: Donor centers take steps to prevent fainting. Few people faint, and research has shown that just because it happens once, that doesn’t mean it will again, Dr. Gandhi says. “We are continuously looking at different ways that can be avoided.”
Fear of nausea: Easily avoided, Dr. Gandhi says: “Eat a healthy breakfast or eat a full meal, keep yourself hydrated, and then come and donate blood. And don’t be thinking about ‘Oh, this is such a big needle,’ or the anxiety. Maybe a good idea would be to start thinking about a good song or watch a show, or do something. I think distraction is the key to successful donation.”
One must also avoid fatty and heavy food. It’s good to eat 35 minutes before donating blood especially for women some salty biscuits which will prevent a drop in blood pressure and avoid fainting.
Education and Information could help alleviating the fears.
There are people who feel faint at the sight of blood. According to Psychology Today, this is likely a primitive reflex. The sight of blood does make certain people uneasy, while for others it can be stressful. (i)
However, it has not been established if fainting due to the sight of blood is because of genetics or some other factor. (ii) sources: today.mins.com)
It is good to know that the usual volume extracted from blood donors is 450 ml and this represents only 1/10th the blood in our body and has no risk at all. Blood donation is safe.
To overcome this fear, you can listen to soothing music while donating blood. This will help to calm your nerves. You can also breathe deeply but slowly. You can also use visualization technique like visualizing being at a natural places like the sea-side, a lake, a garden etc.
Watch video: overcoming fears of needles
Read more about the blood donation process