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Vaccination fear and anxiety

What is needle phobia?

Needle phobia is the fear of medical procedures involving needles, for example vaccinations.

Injections can cause fainting due to changes in blood pressure, and many people also have a fear of fainting. Some people feel panicky or anxious, and embarrassed by their fear but it can be overcome with support. It affects at least 1 in 10 people.

This video explains what happens when we experience fear.

The vicious cycle of panic

When people are exposed to their phobia, it can trigger a vicious cycle of panic which may feel like it is escalating out of control.

Thoughts and feelings about the physical sensations of needles make you feel certain emotions, which then affects your behaviour and reinforces those negative thoughts and feelings.

Although this is really unpleasant, you can overcome this by breaking the cycle with a number of ‘grounding techniques’. These are skills that you will need to practice.

Find a technique that suits you and practice it 3 times a day for a week, when you are not experiencing panic, so that you are used to doing it. Then you can do it when you start to experience the unpleasant thoughts, feelings and emotions.

What are grounding techniques?

Some techniques include listening to music, mindfulness and breathing techniques.

Sensory and mindfulness techniques

Use your 5 senses to help ground you and remind you of the present. This video talks you through the following. Take a big, deep breath and go through this exercise.


Look around you and say 5 things that you can see out loud, such as “I see a bird, I see a dog, I see a house, I see a cup, I see a person.”


Think of 4 things that you can feel and say them out loud. For example, “I can feel my feet are warm, I can feel my hair on my shoulders, I can feel the chair I am sitting on, I can feel my clothes on my skin.”


Listen and say 3 things that you can hear. For example, “I can hear a dog barking, I can hear an aeroplane, I can hear people talking.”


Have a think about 2 things that you can smell and say them out loud. If you cannot smell anything, you can move to a different spot, or just think and imagine your favourite smells, like pizza cooking, and clean clothes.


Say 1 thing you can taste, such as toothpaste your favourite sweets. If you cannot taste anything, then think of something you like the taste of.

Breathing exercises

Follow along the square in your head or use your finger to trace along the lines. Breathe in for 4 seconds, then hold for 4 seconds, then breathe out for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. Keep going around the circle until you feel in control of your breathing again.

You can shorten or lengthen the timings if 4 seconds is a bit too long or short for you. This video talks you through the exercise.

Breathing square to help breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds

What can help me overcome this fear?

Practice your grounding technique 3 times a day for a week leading up to the event you fear, such as injection or blood test. Use it immediately before, during and after, if needed.

Consider where and how you will feel most comfortable and tell the staff that you feel anxious. You could even mention the technique you have practiced to help you.

Consider having someone with you who you trust.

Work through the resources including the Fear Ladder worksheet.

Fear Ladder

Please download and print off the Fear Ladder worksheet.

Put the easiest things you can achieve at the bottom. Tackle them step by step and slowly become more confident. Practise sitting with your thoughts and feelings at each stage and use your grounding techniques. Over time and with practise you will become more comfortable with your fear.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us, on 0114 305 3230 Monday to Friday between 8.30am and 4pm.

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

Resource number: HVS8

Resource Type: Article

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