BAD VEINS: A BLOOD TESTS WORST NIGHTMARE

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Submitted Date 08/12/2019
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We all know those people who have those nice big veins running through their arms. You know the type; the ones who you are sure a phlebotomist could hit with a needle from across the room. Well, not all of us are so blessed with needle friendly veins and the idea of a blood test can send some running in the opposite direction.
As someone who has worked as a laboratory technician for over twenty years, as well as someone with horrible veins (my record is twenty-six pokes for a 3-hour glucose blood test), I consider myself to be very experienced in both sides of this battle. Over the years, both as a patient and as the one behind the needle, there are a few tricks that I have learned to make the whole blood test process a lot easier, both on the patient and the technician.


Water, Water, Water

When it comes to giving blood, either for a blood test or donation, one of the most important tips is to make sure you are hydrated. Now, being hydrated doesn't mean you drink a cup of coffee before your blood test and consider it good. The reason behind this is that for some, caffeine can contribute to dehydration. It is important when you know you are going to have a blood test or donating blood that you drink a good amount of water in the days ahead of your scheduled blood draw. This allows your body to be well hydrated and increases your blood volume, making those veins a little easier to find.


Keep those veins warm

Just like when you lock yourself up inside next to a fire when the weather is cold outside, your veins do the same when they are cold. For those of you with difficult veins, I am guessing you may have, at one time or another, had a laboratory technician place a warming pack on your veins before a blood draw. This is designed to warm the veins and increase the blood flow, making those veins easier to find.


In my case, the veins in my hands are much better than those in my arms. However, they are still not the greatest. When it comes to blood draws, I have learned to go to the bathroom before a blood test and let my hands run under hot water to warm them up. A few minutes is usually more than enough time to raise the temperature and get the blood flowing. I will also rub the top of my hands where my veins are to keep them warm and the circulation moving while I wait to be called.


Don't be afraid to speak up

If you are like me and have had more blood tests and missed attempts than you care to count, you have a pretty good idea of which veins work and which ones just don't seem to be carrying blood. Don't be afraid to speak up and let the technician know this. While not all technicians will listen to a patient, most are more than happy to hear if something just doesn't work. Contrary to popular belief, we are not vampires and do not get enjoyment out of sticking our patients with numerous needles.


Avoid those horrible bruises after a blood draw

Those of us with small veins also tend to be the ones that walk out of the laboratory looking like we have been in a fight. The black and blue marks all over our arms are not really battle scars that we want to have. While there are times when a blood draw can seem like a battle, the later reminder as our arms or hands turn shades of blue and purple we didn't even know existed, is not really the reminder we want.


While there are times when a bruise is unavoidable, the best way to avoid bruising is to maintain pressure on the area of the blood draw for at least 15 minutes after it is over. While your skin may heal and the external bleeding may stop right away, your vein may still bleed under the skin, thus resulting in the bruise. Keeping pressure on the area will help to minimize this.


While those of us with bad veins don't exactly look forward to a blood draw, and the laboratory technician or phlebotomist is the last person we want to see, these few tips can help make the process a little easier and a little less stressful.
 

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