Getting Your Travel Injections – When the Worst Happens

syringe stuck in tree

Before I left England to travel, my only experience of injections came from school. Once a year every class would get rounded up for injection day – which sounds like the worst holiday imaginable.

This was one of the days I feared the most, I’d stay awake the night before worrying, trying to convince myself it would all be ok.

Back then I was mostly just afraid of the pain. Injections are somewhat painful, there’s no way to get around it. Nobody enjoys getting an injection, even those of us with no real fear of getting them.

When our worry over injections consumes us and grows out of control, that’s when it truly becomes a fear. Back in school I don’t think I really had a true fear. I would worry and worry, but I would still go through with it.

Part of my worry was accentuated by the other children. In the weeks leading up to an injection, the school yard is rife with rumour. Some children reveal that their older brother says the injection is the size of a baseball bat. Others whisper that one boy last year got the injection and his head promptly exploded. Always there is the constant foreboding feeling that tomorrow could be the day when the nurse comes.

Then the day finally arrives. All the children are pushed into one long line in the corridor to wait for their turn. The injections take place in a small room, and you never know what will happen until you step inside. All you see are the children coming out, walking by with sad faces holding their arms. Thankfully all with their heads intact.

Eventually you get there and it’s all over within seconds. Afterwards you pretend to your friends that you weren’t scared at all.

The Causes of Injection Fear

Once I finished school, I never had another injection, I never even had my blood taken until I started to travel. To go to some countries it’s essential to get injections otherwise you’ll be at risk of getting a long list of terrible diseases: Hepatitis. Typhoid. Tetanus. Mumps. Polio.

Having anxiety over getting an injection is common,but the fear itself can take many forms. Perhaps you fear the pain will be too much for you, or maybe you’re afraid something will go wrong with the procedure, possibly you’re scared of sharp objects or maybe you’re afraid that you’re going to faint. The fear may overcome you so much that you feel it’s impossible to get your injections.

Not getting injections has never been an option for me, as I always figure it’s probably better to take a chance on something bad happening with the injection, rather than catch a horrible illness. However, this doesn’t mean I actually enjoy getting injections. I hate them!

Whenever I get an injection or blood sample taken I am overtaken with the worry that I’ll faint. I’ve heard of it happening to so many people that I’m always positive it will happen to me too.

In these situations I think it’s good to remind yourself that you’ve been through these processes before without problem, so the chances of a problem occurring this time are low. For example, if you’ve never fainted before when getting a needle, why would it happen this time?

Recently, Jamie and I decided to get a health check-up in Bangkok and as part of it we had to give the dreaded blood sample. Before hand I was worried, but it all was over quickly.

Later I met up with Jamie and she revealed that she had actually fainted during the blood test.

Within an hour the whole thing was forgotten about, and Jamie never thought of it again. But if you suffer with anxiety this whole experience could become a compulsive obsession, which makes you truly fear getting your blood taken again.

My argument is, if the worst has happened to you already and you survived, then you know you can handle that situation. In this case the worst happened to Jamie and she was fine, so from now on I can tell myself that if I do faint, it’ll probably end up all right in the end anyway.

When The Worst Happened

As I’ve said, before going traveling the only time I received injections was at school, which was a controlled process with the other children. Upon traveling for the first time though I had to get some new injections and had to go alone to get them done.

I’ve never really had too much of a problem going to see the doctor, so I wasn’t too worried beforehand. Plus, I could now put my experiences from school into perspective and realise that all it would be is a little prick.

So I’m sitting in the doctor’s office, ready to get my injections and I’m a little nervous, but a normal level of nervous I would say. The doctor asked me to roll both of my sleeves up as she’s going to give me an injection in each arm.

She gives me the first injection and I barely feel it, everything is fine. Easy. Then she gives me the second injection and it feels different. I can feel the muscle in my arm tensing up a little bit and immediately a torrent of worry is unleashed.

Why is my arm hurting?! Why did this injection feel different? Is something going wrong?! OH GOD, SHE’S GIVEN ME THE WRONG INJECTION AND I’M GOING TO DIE!

It’s strange how the brain grasps on this fact so easily. Multiple times in life I’ve been almost completely sure I was about to die with very little reasoning or rationale behind it.

I start breathing heavily and the doctor looks at me. “Are you all right?” she asks.
“Um, I don’t feel so good.” I start to sweat and I rub my forehead, I’m getting hot. My heart is all of a sudden pounding in my chest. I’m positive I’m going to die.

The doctor tells me to to wiggle my fingers, probably to take my mind off panicking. So I start wiggling my fingers and wonder why she’s making me do it. Has she given me the wrong injection and this stops it spreading through my body?! What’s happening!?

“Are you starting to feel better?” she asks.
“Not really.”
“Ok, wiggle your feet as well.”

So there I am, sitting in the doctor’s office wiggling my whole body, thinking I’m about to die doing some ridiculous dance. My heart is beating faster and faster. My head starts to spin. Then


I vomit all over the floor. The doctor cringes.

Suddenly my worry is overtaken with another feeling – complete embarrassment. The doctor runs out of the room to get me a plastic tray to vomit into but I’m done. My heart goes back to normal and I start to feel pretty much as I did before. The doctor gives me some tissues to wipe my mouth, but I can’t stop looking at the vomit on the floor.

I take the tissues and awkwardly try to wipe my vomit up with them. But there’s too much vomit and not enough tissue. The doctor protests, but I feel so damn embarrassed that I keep trying. I keep apologising profusely, “Sorry, sorry, aw shit, argh, sorry!” The doctor is pleading with me, “Just leave it, I’ll clean it up!”

So I sit back opposite the doctor, but I still know the pool of vomit is at my feet just sitting there. For all intents and purposes, I’m done. I’ve had my injections and I should be leaving, but it just seems so bad to vomit on a person’s floor and leave, so I attempt to make small talk.

“I bet this happens all the time, doesn’t it?” I ask, hoping it’s a regular occurrence so I can feel a little better with myself.
“No, actually, this is the first time it’s happened.”

The doctor asks if I’m ok to leave and I say I’m fine. I walk out in shame leaving the vomit behind me, apologising a few more times and asking one last time if she’s sure I can’t clean it up.

The only positive thing I took from the whole experience was that it probably amused the doctor and nurses for the rest of the week and I’ve become some form of legend. “The Man Who Vomited On The Floor.” The doctor no doubt brings the story out at dinner parties to amuse her peers and the whole tale has been distorted to make it even more embarrassing than it was.

Vomiting on the floor wasn’t all bad though, it helped in a way. Whenever I’ve received an injection since then I can easily remind myself that the worst can’t happen because it already did! No injection I could receive could be worse than that one.

Worry vs Experience

I think it’s important to understand that often worrying before something can actually be more painful to you than if the worst did happen. The story of my vomiting may seem bad, but – like an injection – the embarrassment and situation was all over and done with within moments. However, worrying about the moment can last for an indefinite period of time.

If you do faint, vomit or feel pain, it won’t last for very long and by worrying you’ll spend more time feeling bad about the possible event than you would if it happened. You can’t avoid feeling the pain from the injection, so all worrying does is make you feel bad before hand too.

As I always say though, it’s easier said than done trying to keep worry at bay. I don’t claim to have the answers to anxiety problems – if I did I wouldn’t be writing these posts, I’d be off living my merry life.

But hopefully by reading this post and my experiences you can see that when something does go wrong, it’s not that big a deal anyway and the pain of getting injections is worth it when weighed up against the pleasure of travel.


    • Dan says

      Oh dear! Maybe I should take this post down as I don’t want to worry anybody else before they get an injection. My aim was to provide some encouragement but possibly I’ve failed. It should be noted that I’ve gotten about a dozen injections before and after and never had a problem!

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