Surviving my TB test: advice, anyone?

Needles. They never used to bother me, but today, the mere sight of one near my flesh almost did me in.

You see, I just got a new job that occasionally requires being around children with an infectious disease. Therefore, I must have a TB test. I went to get it today, knowing that my “needle issues” have been growing over the years but hoping that I could just do it and get it over with. By “needle issues,” I mean that shots, IVs, etc. scare the bejesus out of me, even when they’re happening to other people. (Blood and pain in general freak me out in a very visceral manner; I almost fainted when someone cruelly exposed me to the ear scene from “Reservoir Dogs.”)

So I go into the nurse’s office, explain that I’m a little nervous, and wait for her to come at me. She assures me that it’s no problem; it won’t hurt a bit. The tourniquet goes on, I squeeze the little ball thing, and the needle gets closer. But I panic and yank my arm away in anticipation, crying “Don’t do it!” I’m now hyperventilating, my head is spinning, my heart is racing, and tears run down my cheeks. I can’t get a grip for a couple of hours, and I’m still on edge half the day later.

I went to my doctor (same building) for advice or a pill to put me down, and she’ll give me some Ativan and let me take the test next week. I’m still concerned, though–will the meds work? Will I be able to get the shot? Will I have to give up my amazing new job? I don’t have tuberculosis, I swear!!

If anyone here has anecdotes of either surviving a needle under considerable anxiety or popping Ativan as a sedative, it might calm me down to read them…

(Guess they call me “the Frail” for a reason, huh?)

Ativan, in my experience with patients, is pretty effective. I would also just turn your head and not watch the shot. Try try to focus on something else–maybe bring along a magazine or book. The TB injection one of the easier ones so try not to panic.

Don’t even worry about the needle. If it’s like when I had my TB test last December, you will get a hair-thin needle that you won’t even feel. It’s in and out in a manner of seconds.

It’s nothing like when you go for a blood test and the needle stays in for a while as they change tubes.

It’s a very small needle and it doesn’t go deep at all. No tourniquet, no ball to squeeze, and it’s over in under a minute.

Good luck!

I feel your pain. All I can remember of the movie Master and Commander is the part where Maturin (warning: may be upsetting) does surgery on himself. I couldn’t look at the screen the whole time, and I thought I was going to vomit just from listening. I usually read ScreenIt reviews before seeing a movie to see if anything in it is likely to upset me. Needles or significant blood and pain, and I don’t go.

I have a phobia of needles too, but it’s not this severe. Some things that help me:

  1. This is absolutely positively 100% not your fault. You didn’t bring this on by anything you thought or did, or by anything you didn’t do.

  2. Take the Ativan as directed. You’ll probably be told to take one the night before and one the morning of, or something like that. It’s a good idea not to drive while you’re taking the Ativan.

  3. Don’t look at the arm the nurse is going to put the needle in. Literally turn your head as far as it will go in the other direction. If you wear glasses, take them off. (I cry when faced with needles, so taking my glasses off helps me avoid tear spots as well as making it harder for me to see the needle)

  4. Warn the nurse that you might shake (I do) or faint, or anything else you might do. It might also help if she doesn’t tell you when the needle’s going to be going in.

  5. Try to focus on something else. A really smart nurse once had me focus on a world map she had on the far side of the room and think about a place where I’d like to go.

  6. If at all possible, don’t go back to work that day after the appointment. Don’t plan anything for later in that day where you have to drive or think, if you can help it. Eat some comfort food. Watch something mindless but fun and definitely not emotionally taxing on TV or a DVD.

Millit , in your OP you describe going to the nurse for your test and having her prep for it by placing a tourniquet on your arm and having you squeeze a ball…or did I miss something? This in not required for a TB test which is just a small intradermal injection, actually instillation barely under the skin of the testing material. The prep you described is for venipuncture, used mostly for obtaining lab tests or starting IVs. If your office nurse was indeed doing this to administer the TB test that doesn’t sound right.

Am I just confused here :confused: ?

Nope, you got it right. I’ve done hundreds of TB skin tests, it’s just a tiny needle inserted thru the skin and a tiny bit of fluid instilled, then you’re done.

I suggest that you never go to visit a dialysis clinic - we use 14 gauge needles and they are BIG!

I’m happy to see such a sympathetic response! It’s really weird; my doctor tells me that I should really look into seeing someone for an anxiety problem…and it’s starting to all fit together. Lately I’ve had nightmares, been claustrophobic, been panicky or on-edge. It’s mostly recent–I actually gave blood a few years ago and had no problem.

As to the procedure, the nurse definitely put on a tourniquet and looked for a vein. I had thought it was just a pinprick, as the previous posters describe above, so you can imagine my shock at the whole thing. The needle was nothing tiny, either. I wonder why this was so. Maybe the hospital I work for is trying to rub me out… :confused:

I’ll go ahead and try the Ativan, and I’ll ask about the procedure next time. I’m getting a different nurse, so maybe she’ll do things differently. It’s next Tuesday that I’m scheduled for the test, so I’ll spend the week trying to relax and get used to the idea…thanks again!! :slight_smile:

I would certainly ask why they are doing a TB test that way when it’s not the standard procedure. Tell them you’ve been told by many people that it’s a little pinprick thingy so you’re wondering why they are doing it a different way. Is it possible the nurse had your chart mixed up with someone else’s?

A TB test gave me my fear of needles.

I was totally fine about needles before that. I’d had blood drawn, recieved injections, etc., and while it wasn’t something I’d do recreationally, I’d watch what they were doing and be pretty mellow about the whole deal.

Then I had to get a TB test when I was in high school because my neighbor had been exposed.

As the nurse stuck the needle just under the surface of my skin and began injecting, I discovered a peculiar and special new kind of absolutely unnerving pain. It wasn’t severe pain, but it was terribly uncomfortable, and every fiber of my being was screaming at me to pull away. There was that horrible electric teeth-hurty sensation and it felt like the needle was going deeper and deeper and deeper and it seemed to go on forever. I tried to hold still but I finally lost it and pulled back. The nurse snapped at me, and then looked at my face (chalk white) and called for assistance. I had to lie down for a while. Then they told me that the injection site wasn’t welting up like it was supposed to, and they had to do the other arm.


It took three people to hold me down. I tried to hold still, but I was shaking like a leaf and my reflexes were stronger than my will to get it done and get out of there.

It’s been 15 years, and I’m just now getting to the point that I can have a blood draws done without being in serious danger of passing out. That’s if I get a good phelbotomist and I lie down while they do it. I have always had pretty deep veins. They are now described as “jumpy”, too. I don’t know if this is just a biological fact about my body that has changed as I got older, or part of my body’s reaction to my fear of needles. Usually the only way they can get blood out of me is to use a butterfly needle in the back of my hand. I always tell the that, but they react with horror and usually insist on going on a fishing expedition in my arm first. But only the hand can be relied upon, and contrary to their expectations it’s relatively pain free and doesn’t bruise hardly at all.

This thread made me have a nightmare! I dreamed last night that (warning: upsetting) I was strapped down in a chair and someone was coming after me with needles :eek:

Years back, my hubbie had to have an INS physical for his “green card.” (He’s from the UK, we live in the US.) He went to a government-approved physician who performed the mandatory tests, including TB testing by x-ray. No problem. Fast forward (hah!) 18 months to “our” INS interview. We’ve only been married for a year and a half, for goodness’ sake, and he’s just about to be awarded the desired residency card. Woohoo! His tests are out of date by now, so he has to repeat the complete physical. This time he’s covered by my medical insurance, so he goes to a local doc who performs the TB “needle-stick” test, which comes out POSITIVE! It turns out that a positive skin test means that the possessor either has TB or has been exposed to it sometime during his lifetime. If he’s ever tested again it has to be via x-ray. You might consider telling a little white lie and requesting an x-ray test for this reason. Good luck!

I, too, have a fear of needles and always list them in the “allergies” section of medical forms. It gets a laugh if nothing else.

I suffer from the same problem as well. I find that it’s best to tell the person doing the injection or taking the blood sample and lie down for the procedure. Before I started doing that, I would fairly routinely pass out from the anxiety. In addition, I’ve found it useful to have something distracting to read while waiting. If you aren’t interested in any of the drivil that is normally found as reading material in the doctor’s office, take something yourself. It keeps you from focusing on what is coming up.

And here I thought I was scared of needles. You people have me beat. You have my sympathy!

I have to go to the dentist to get a tooth crowned Friday. Guess what is the most traumatic thing a dentist can do to me? That’s right, stick me with the local. Once that’s over, I can at least hang on. Not that I like it. But the needles…IN MY MOUTH…shudder

What they said. It should be a really small pinprick, not a shot-type deal.

By the way, most people who have or have been exposed to TB don’t know it. I didn’t (it was picked up with a Mantoux tine test, because I worked with children).

Podkayne just reminded me…the last time I had blood taken, I got the back-of-the-hand deal, and it was AWFUL. I think that may have been the start of my needle problems. It was a few years ago.

But then I had two fillings a few months ago, and the novocaine injections weren’t too bad. Thinking about it now freaks me out a great deal. It’s such a sudden thing–I wonder why I’m so anxious right now. I wish I could just chill out. :frowning:

I think you’re letting yourself be your own worst enemy here. Seriously, you shouldn’t even feel it.

I’m with Ginger. I think you’re working yourself up to be so scared, when the shot is not bad at all. My 7 year old son had the shot a few weeks ago, and he thought it was nothing.

Tell yourself over and over that it is no big deal. Hopefully that will work because it is TRUE! :slight_smile:

The TB scratch test is nothing, the time to worry is when the injection site swells up about 7-8 mm high and a centimeter around. That’s when the real fun begins.

I’ve got a neat little trick that I use whenever I have to have a shot. Just as the needle enters, cough, and cough again as they pull it out. You usually don’t feel a thing. I’ve just gone through two Mantoux tests recently. (work related) Silly me didn’t go back 48 hours later so they had to do it again. :smack: Just be sure to cough and don’t miss your follow up. Good luck-you’ll be fine. :slight_smile: