Examining your blood can give your doctor important information about your health. Blood tests can help determine whether your organs are working properly, identify infections or problems with your immune system, and diagnose a range of diseases and health conditions.
So, whether it’s a regular screening or a test to look for a specific problem, you’re likely to need to have blood drawn at some point. Colton Redding, DO, a family medicine physician with Banner Health Center in Loveland, CO, said the process usually takes less than five minutes.
Here’s what happens when you have blood drawn
When you have a blood sample taken, first you check in, then the phlebotomist (the health care professional who draws your blood) will bring you back to the draw station. You’ll sit down, and they will likely confirm your identity, then start the process.
They prep your site by cleaning the area—they usually draw blood from the inside of your elbow. Then they place a needle into an accessible vein and use vacuum tubes to draw out the blood samples. When they are finished, they bandage the site. Depending on the tests your doctor requested, they may fill several small tubes.
Afterward, you should keep the bandage on for one to two hours and watch the site for any changes. There’s a risk of bleeding and bruising and a rare chance of infection or clotting. Otherwise, you’re free to go about your normal activities.
Here’s how to make the blood draw easier
Dr. Redding shared these tips for making your blood draw go a little more smoothly:
- Get a good night’s sleep and drink plenty of water. Being well-rested and increasing your blood volume by drinking water can help make it easier for the phlebotomist to access your vein.
- Ask your doctor if you need to fast before the blood draw. For some tests, you need to avoid eating for a predetermined amount of time beforehand (oftentimes, overnight). Time may vary based on the test.
- Wear short sleeves. That way, you don’t have to undress or awkwardly pull your arm from your sleeve to expose your vein.
- Take your prescribed medications beforehand unless a health care professional advises you otherwise.
- Bring your insurance card and identification.
- If your lab doesn’t require an appointment, you might want to ask when it’s least busy, so you don’t have to wait for long. Many labs are busy early in the morning, after people fast overnight.
Here’s what to do if blood or needles make you nervous
A lot of people are apprehensive about having blood drawn. Getting plenty of rest and practicing mindfulness techniques can help you feel calmer before and during the procedure. “Breathing exercises or a guided meditation to manage any stress can be very helpful,” Dr. Redding said. If you have a phobia related to blood draws, talk about it with your primary care provider and see if other alternatives might work for you.
The bottom line
A blood draw is an important test that gives your doctor crucial information about your health. With a few easy steps, you can make the process go as smoothly as possible. If you need to connect with a primary care provider to manage your health, Banner Health can help.