From Dr Sapha Shibeeb, Senior Lecturer, Laboratory Medicine.

Blood tests are a common medical procedure, offering valuable insights into a person’s health. Whether you’re getting a routine check-up, diagnosing a medical condition or monitoring treatment progress, understanding the process can make the experience more comfortable and effective.

For the majority of patients, blood collections are a minor inconvenience. Others may feel uneasy and anxious.

Preparation strategies can help get you through the procedure. To improve your blood collection experience, consider these tips:

  1. Hydrate

Drink plenty of water right up to 30 minutes before your appointment. Adequate hydration improves blood flow, making your veins more accessible. Avoid strenuous exercise before your blood test, which can increase some blood parameters (such as liver function) while decreasing others (such as sodium).

  1. Loose clothing

Wear clothing that allows easy access to your arms to ensure a less stressful procedure.

  1. Manage anxiety

If the sight of blood or the procedure makes you anxious, look away while the needle is inserted and try to keep breathing normally. Distraction can help – virtual reality has been trialled to reduce needle anxiety in children. You could try bringing something to read or music to listen to.

  1. Know your risk of fainting

If you’re prone to fainting, make sure to inform the phlebotomist when you arrive. You can have your blood drawn while lying down to minimise the risk of passing out and injury. Hydration helps maintain blood pressure and can also reduce the risk of fainting.

  1. Discuss difficult veins

Some people have smaller or scarred veins, often due to repeated punctures, chemotherapy or blood thinner use. In such cases, venipuncture may require multiple attempts. It is important to talk to the phlebotomist if you feel discomfort or significant pain. A finger prick can be performed as an alternative for some tests, such as blood glucose levels. But other comprehensive tests require larger blood volume.


After your blood test

The whole blood test procedure usually lasts no more than a few minutes. Afterwards, you may be asked to apply gentle pressure over a clean dressing to aid clotting and reduce swelling.

If you do experience swelling, bruising or pain after a test, follow general first aid procedures to alleviate discomfort. These include applying ice to the site, resting the affected arm and, if needed, taking a pain killer.

It is usually recommended you do not do heavy lifting for a few hours after a blood draw. This is to prevent surges in blood flow that could prevent clotting where the blood was taken.


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