January 13, 2024

Juicy Veins

Are your veins shot from chemo? Are you tired of being a human pin cushion? What can you do to get juicier veins for easier blood draws and IV sticks? I recently called the 24 hour-nurse line at my insurance company, United Healthcare, and talked to a friendly nurse about how I could make it easier when they are digging for a vein. She gave me the following ideas:

1. Experience. It is your right to ask for the most experienced nurse or phlebotomist on duty.

2. Gravity. Keep your arms dangling at your side, rather than in a raised position, to encourage blood flow to the veins.

3. Hydration. Unless you are on a no water restriction, drink a lot of water the day before and the day of your stick to plump up your veins. (Don’t be extreme though; too much water can have drastic, negative effects on your body. 48-64 ounces over the course of a day is often recommended). If you are on a no water restriction, be sure that you are adequately hydrated up to the time your restriction kicks in.

4. Caffeine. Stay away from coffee and caffeine, which deplete the water in your body and keep your veins from being their juiciest.

5. Warmth. Because cold can constrict blood vessels, for five minutes before the stick, use a warm, moist cloth on the area where they intend to try the needle.

6. Butterfly. Ask the nurse or phlebotomist if they can use the smallest needle possible that is appropriate for the type of test or procedure you are having. Particular blood tests call for specific needle types. For example, butterfly needles, while very tiny, cannot be used for red blood counts because they break up red blood cells.

7. Doc talk. Talk to your doc to make sure your weak veins are not the symptom of another health condition that should be checked out. Plus, if needle sticks are a perpetual problem, before a procedure, ask your ordering physician to intervene and write into the order a request for a particular nurse they know will get the job done right.

My inner lawyer feels the need to remind you that I’m not a doctor or nurse, and do not intend this information as medical advice. Always consult to your licensed medical practitioner before trying any of the above steps, or before proceeding with any other health related tips you read online.

Do nurses have a hard time finding your veins? If so, has it created anxiety for you? How have you dealt with it? Would it be easier if Heidi Klum were you nurse?

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  1. Rotorhead Says:
    January 13th, 2009 at 10:29 PM

    I’d take Sgt. E, who could find my veins no matter what, over nurse Klum. I had such needle anxiety that I had a couple of sessions with my psychologist to help me get through (my first 6 weeks of chemo were without a port). I still hate needles but I don’t freak out as long as they FIND THE F’N VEIN. Anyhow, I got the chest port post-surgery and ALL WAS WELL. Highly recommended.

  2. Laurie Says:
    January 15th, 2009 at 7:59 PM

    Great post!! I’ve had more blood draws and IV sticks than I can count in 28 years of being a patient, and the wily little things like to roll over and hide, or disappear beneath scar tissue. I do a lot of things you suggest here, and they can really make a difference, so thanks for putting them out there.

    I’m also not shy about pointing out my “best” sites and don’t let them just dig around, or perform “excavation,” as I call it in my book.

  3. Jen Says:
    January 16th, 2009 at 1:22 PM

    When they decided I was going to need 18 treatments of chemo, my oncologist took one look at the inside of my arms and said “Yeah, you’re going to need a port.” After having had two surgeries and many, many blood draws, I was fine with that. If you’re not familiar with what a port is, it’s a device they implant under your skin and it hooks into your clavical vein. So when you go in for your treatments, they stick the diaphragm in the port, instead of your arms. The chemo still did a number on my veins, but I didn’t have to deal with them digging around looking for what are crappy viens anyway.

  4. Everything Changes Says:
    January 16th, 2009 at 4:19 PM

    Thanks for all of the port props on here. So many patients I speak to are scared to death of getting a port and I think it is great that they can hear from you just how helpful one can be!


  5. Tera Says:
    March 5th, 2009 at 6:34 PM

    When I found out I would be going through a year’s worth of interferon treatments I was more concerned about the needle stick than the side effects. Apparently my pathetic facial expressions made that clear to my doctors and they hooked me up with a cream called Emla..a lidocaine prilocaine mix. It’s a miracle cream you put on your skin an hour before your stick. It truly is amazing and made going in for infusion 5 days a week so much more bearable. I still use it for blood draws and the injections I have to do myself. I get made fun of occasionally because it’s what they give babies before sticks, but its so worth it! If you’re someone who has a needle-phobia as well don’t be shy about asking for a prescription!

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