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How patients can improve blood draws

Nurse Cecilia Jones prepares to draw blood. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

Nurse Cecilia Jones prepares to draw blood. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KAHN)

Nurses and phlebotomists -- the people who draw blood and start intravenous lines -- perform multiple “venipunctures” each day, inserting needles through skin and into veins to draw blood, or start intravenous lines. Patients typically feel a slight sting when the needle is inserted.

Relaxing may be easier advised than accomplished, but patients can do a few things to help the procedure go smoothly. Some advice:

  1. Your blood will flow better if you are well hydrated, so drink plenty of water starting a couple of days before your procedure.

2.  Eating well the day before can help improve blood flow.

If you are told to fast before your blood work, do not eat or drink anything in the eight hours leading up to your test. Also, no strenuous exercise and no tobacco products during that time. Patients should check with their health care provider about all prescription and nonprescription medications.

3.  Taking a walk before you go for your procedure can raise your blood pressure, making your veins more prominent. This is not advised if you are fasting.

4.  Moisturizing the skin from your hand to your elbow at least four times a day in the days leading up to your procedure can help lessen the pain from the puncture. If you remain sensitive to the pain, ask if a numbing cream can be used.

5.  Body warmth increases your blood circulation, making it easier for the phlebotomist to find a vein. So while you are waiting, keep your coat or sweater on. Warming your hands under a heating pad may help, if your blood is difficult to draw.

6.  Bring music or something to read to help distract yourself if you feel anxious. Look away if you can‘t bear the sight of blood.

7.  If you think you might faint, ask the phlebotomist if you can lay down while he or she draws your blood.

8.  If you will require frequent blood draws, and you have veins that pose a challenge for phlebotomists, inquire whether a catheter or port is a possibility.

Source: Upstate clinical pathology department

Cancer Care magazine summer 2017 coverThis article appears in the summer 2017 issue of Upstate Health magazine.