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18 year old DS petrified of needles.How can we help him overcome his fear?

(26 Posts)
mckenzie Thu 26-Sep-19 15:51:00

DS was a baby during the Andrew Wakefield scaremongering. He's my PFB. I opted for single vaccines.
We were unlucky enough to then get caught up with the GP who has since been struck off for profiteering on the back of the MMR scandal and offering single dose vaccines which were actually no vaccine at all.
DS, who has a level of autism / high functioning Asperger's has a fear of needles. I took him for the MMR when he was about 8/9 and the nurse refused to have me hold him down (he was sobbing and screaming and obviously very distressed) as she said it was tantamount to abuse. Dh took him and the same thing happened.
We have tried numerous times since but with no success.

Consequently, DS is now 18 and has had no mumps or measles vaccine (the rubella he had as a single vaccine when he was still too young to know what was happening and the tests show that he is covered for that.)

He's a bright lad who knows the risks he's under but his fear of needles is greater. He came with me for my flu jab last year and was okay watching but in fairness to DS, the needle for the flu jab is very thin compared to the needle for the MMR.

Any suggestions?


OP’s posts: |
moreismore Thu 26-Sep-19 15:53:13

CBT? But, abs I don’t say this lightly, weigh up the amount of distress with the risk of first catching one of these illnesses and then having one of their rare complications.

XXcstatic Thu 26-Sep-19 16:03:23

What is the fear about? Is it the pain or something else? Because, if it's the pain, EMLA cream could help. You can get it from a pharmacy, so he could try it out to give him the confidence it will work.

mckenzie Thu 26-Sep-19 16:27:27

Thank you both for the replies.
I will try the cream as I think it is the fear of the pain.

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ItsJustTheOneSwanActually Thu 26-Sep-19 16:31:12

I overcame my fear by starting to give blood. I was a total basket case the first couple of times but it got easier and easier and now I have no fear at all.

(Fear stemmed from traumatic vaccinations as a child)

No idea if that would work for someone on the spectrum though.

FurryDogMother Thu 26-Sep-19 16:52:08

My doctor prescribed 5mg diazepam for me, before I could face having a blood test (have had a lifelong needle phobia, though am NT as far as I know). I only had to take it a couple of times - I now have regular blood tests - because I learned that, actually, needles don't really hurt after all. What I do now is consciously relax, rather than tense, before the needle goes in, and distract myself by either talking to the nurse about something unrelated (and looking away), or thinking myself into my happy place, or doing random maths problems in my head. I wish someone had helped me with this at 18 - I was in my 50s before I found a way to cope with needles (though oddly, I've never had a problem doing my own ear piercings!). The fear was really bad though, I do feel sympathy for your son, and hope you manage to resolve this.

BertieBotts Thu 26-Sep-19 17:01:06

Emla cream won't work for vaccines because they go into the muscle and Emla only numbs the skin. There is a device called a buzzy which is meant to be good. See if he likes the idea of one of those? I've also had diazepam suggested to me by a doctor who was concerned I haven't had booster jabs (since moving abroad where they have different recommendations to the UK).

I hugely sympathise as I have a similar fear myself although luckily no vaccines to catch up on. However it has meant me avoiding treatment I should have had in the past, for example I am not really sure how covered I am for tetanus because I had a shot a couple of years ago when I cut myself and then I was supposed to go and get two catch up jabs but I didn't go because I didn't want to have them. I then felt phantom pain in that arm for over a year following the jab. It's probably psychosomatic but I just find them so excruciatingly painful. I've given birth without pain relief twice so it seems silly to be scared of a little needle but there you go.

There is a very good website somewhere about needle phobia.

tryingoutgreyhair Thu 26-Sep-19 17:11:54

There are loads of good websites eg put "needle phobia nhs" into google but for some people even reading stuff related to their phobia can cause s lot of distress so approach cautiously

But I wouldnt try to self treat or consult dr google - I would get a specialist or at least GP opinion re best treatment approach and local services (eg if there's any fainting or history of fainting in the family the treatment wd need adjusting)

Some IAPT services provide cbt for phobias (again ask your GP about this)

RubbingHimSourly Thu 26-Sep-19 17:16:42

Ask for the ultra, fine needle. I have to have them because I have very fine veins........I can literally feel normal ones stretching. The fine ones I don't feel at all.

eurochick Thu 26-Sep-19 17:18:19

Vaccinations go into the muscle, not the vein.

mckenzie Thu 26-Sep-19 19:50:11

Thank you so much for all the posts. I bought some Emla cream this afternoon and left it out for DS to see. As soon as he picked it up he freaked out saying “I’m not having any needles” and when I calmly asked him if it was the fear of pain he said no. It seems he is just freaked out by needles, or the thought of them. He has similar aversions to apples. And pencils.
His final comment was
“I am not having any needles even if it means I die” sad

OP’s posts: |
usernamexox Thu 26-Sep-19 20:01:21

He may need a local anaesthetic at some point for dental treatment, so maybe explore psychotherapy/CBT.

mckenzie Thu 26-Sep-19 20:20:20

Does DS need to want to overcome his fear for CBT to work?

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lovemylot1 Thu 26-Sep-19 20:42:12

Hope you don’t think I’m making light of this but I clicked on this thinking it was about a fear of noodles! Needles makes more sense!

lljkk Thu 26-Sep-19 20:49:43

He's an adult. You have to respect his decisions you don't like.

I could imagine doing a blunt guilt convo: "If you die or get very sick from measles then I will blame myself for not getting you jabbed as a baby."


"Do you really want this irrational fear to dominate your life?"

But that's the limit. Adults get to make bad decisions.

XXcstatic Thu 26-Sep-19 21:05:01

Emla cream won't work for vaccines because they go into the muscle and Emla only numbs the skin.

EMLA does only work on the skin, but most pain from vaccinations and blood tests is from the needle piercing the skin (I'm a GP). So EMLA doesn't make either process pain free, but does substantially reduce the pain of both.

However, I see from the OP's update that her DS is refusing to try the EMLA so it's no good anyway. Has your DS ever talked to his GP about his fears, OP? The GP won't have any magical solutions, but may be able to help him understand the risks of remaining unvaccinated. As a PP said, CBT may also be able to help with the phobia.

tryingoutgreyhair Thu 26-Sep-19 21:12:00

Maybe he saw the EMLA cream and thought you were going to/had made him an appointment? As I said before for some people with phobias reading about it (or talking/thinking/looking at related things about it) can be distressing.

He would need to understand about anxiety treatment and freely consent to cbt and for that there would need to be some motivation in his mind.

Is he fairly bright? Might he find it interesting to research CBT in general (nb without reading anything specifically related to his phobias) there are probably some asd cbt books?

I'd reassure him and back off just now but you can inform yourself about needle phobia so you know what works/doesn't and consider if he would seek professional advice. The trouble with taking him to the gp is it's a v medical setting so he needs to know that it would only be a chat and no one is going to suddenly get out the vaccination pack.

kalinkafoxtrot45 Thu 26-Sep-19 22:19:08

If it helps, I used to have an extreme fear of needles as a teenager and refused vaccinations. In my 20s I was unwell and needed medical tests, the sheer necessity of it made me overcome the situation. These days it’s no problem.

Fraggling Thu 26-Sep-19 22:28:43

Different situation but I was in hosp a lot as a kid and nurse gave advice which I have stuck to and works

Look away from the whole thing. Don't look at tray with stuff, anything
Cough when they put needle in, distracts and makes less painful

That may be of use to some people

For your son though, sounds like the best thing to do is sedate him and do whole lot? Certainly that's something that can be done if people need treatment and are freaking out... Whether you can get it is another question.

ILikeyourHairyHands Thu 26-Sep-19 22:41:52

Ahh, OP, I can completely relate, I now have a DD (also with ASD) that is having to have her MMR (I have an aversion to apples BTW, very crunchy and wrong).

She had her first jab on Monday and was very aggitated, and shouting 'this is against my will', I hugged her very close and the nurse went in.

I managed to get her there by discussing very gently with her over and over that the injection was;

A) Much less worse than anything she may catch as a result of not having it.

B) Her anxiety about the injection was much worse than the injection, worrying about something for weeks/months when the actual thing takes seconds, so a cost benefit analysis of upset really.

C) The pleausre of no longer having to worry about it, I also promised an excellent reward to sweeten the pill.

It's hard though OP, I understand.

XXcstatic Fri 27-Sep-19 08:32:25

Ask for the ultra, fine needle

That isn't necessarily a good idea for vaccines. The thinner the needle, the more force needed to push the liquid that you are injecting (the vaccine in this case) through the needle. So, although a fine needle tip may be less painful as it pierces the skin, the actual injection can be more uncomfortable, because you have to inject it with more force. Also, some vaccines come in syringes with inbuilt needles that you can't change.

mckenzie Fri 27-Sep-19 10:53:29

Thank you again for the posts. I typed a huge long reply last night but didn't post it as I wanted to check my spelling etc this morning and I've now refreshed this message before saving the typing and so of course if has disappeared! With hindsight it was perhaps rather long and a tad too 'heavy' so perhaps it's a good thing.

I have tried in the past to discuss the potential implications of not having the vaccine with DS and although he does understand, it doesn't affect his decision. This year he was abroad with college and one of the lads caught mumps. We discussed again the potential ramifications but he seemed to be quite blasé about it.

Our GP surgery has recently been taking over and staff are changing rapidly. The nurse and GP who may well remember the previous MMR attempts have both left and the only new GP who I have seen recently didn't make me feel very confident and so I would probably not choose to take DS to see her.

Would sedation be an option? I'm assuming I'd have to sort that privately and DS wouldn't attend anyway would he?

I will look at the CBT options certainly but again, I think because he doesn't want to be cured of his needle phobia, it's going to be futile. I've used hypnotherapy for a few things with great success but I'm told you need to want the results to get them.

DS is mad about one particular sport and I'm rather hoping he has the option to play in a country that needs a vaccine to visit as that I think will be the only thing that will sway him.
Well done for reading this far smile

OP’s posts: |
XXcstatic Fri 27-Sep-19 13:29:01

I don't want to worry you, OP, but has he had his teenage diphtheria, tetanus and polio booster, plus the meningitis vaccine - all usually given in Year 9? If not, he cannot be considered immune to those diseases and, if he plays virtually any sport (maybe not table tennis wink), I'd be worried about tetanus in particular because it is always a risk if there is any injury that breaks the skin. I am sorry to be potentially adding to your worries, but I would hate him to be at unnecessary risk without realising.

XXcstatic Fri 27-Sep-19 13:31:09

PS have you tried approaching his coach about the vaccine issue? IME, teenage boys will often take their coach's word as gospel, while ignoring exactly the same advice from their DM (because what do we know? wink).

mckenzie Fri 27-Sep-19 17:27:50

No he hasn't XXcstatic and I am worried. He doesn't have a coach per se. He does have some contact with a relatively high profile player and I have thought about trying to contact him to ask if he would be willing to speak/message with DS.
I don't feel comfortable though going behind DS's back.

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