By: Sue Carrington  |

Quick read:

Despite being a common procedure, getting an IV can still be a challenging experience for some patients. To make your experience more comfortable, be sure to hydrate, relax and be still. Always be sure to communicate with your care team if you’re anxious or in any pain.

Full story:

If you’re sick, an intravenous (IV) injection is a fast way to receive the fluids or medicines you need to get well. It’s natural to have some anxiety about whether or not the procedure will be painful.

Here are seven steps to stay comfortable when you’re getting an IV:  

  1. Hydrate. Drink plenty of water within an hour or so before your procedure, up to three or four glasses. Water helps make your veins more relaxed and more easily accessible.
  2. RelaxWhen your muscles are relaxed, it’s easier to penetrate the skin and receive the catheter in your vein. Be open to the small talk intended to distract you and to keep your mind off the IV insertion.
  3. Speak upSuggest a vein, but also let your nurse offer an opinion. If you’ve had blood drawn or received an IV before, you may remember which vein works best for the procedure. If you don’t have a suggestion, let the nurse search for sites on both arms to find the placement that will be the most effective.
  4. Help your veinsLower your arm down the side of your bed or chair while waiting for the nurse to set up the IV equipment. This can plump up the veins in your arms. You can also ask the nurse if a heating pad is available. Heat applied to the skin above the vein will dilate the vein, making it plump up with blood for easier insertion.
  5. Re-focusTry not to look at the IV going in. Often, the anticipation can make any pain feel more intense. Close your eyes and imagine your next vacation. Wear a headset and listen to music. If you’re sitting up, read a book or access the Internet on your phone, tablet or laptop.
  6. Stay stillTry to keep your body quiet throughout the infusion. If you move during the IV insertion, you’re increasing the risk that the needle isn’t placed properly. Being still will not only help you stay calm but also help your nurse complete the procedure efficiently.
  7. BreatheIf you’re anxious, try breathing deeply to steady your nerves. Breathe slowly through your nose for a count of 10 and then gradually release your breath on a second count of 10.

Throughout the IV infusion, your care team’s primary goal is making the entire process as safe, easy, and painless as possible. The most important thing you can do is to stay calm — and if something doesn’t feel right, say so.

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