How to Make Getting an IV Less Painful

Getting an IV should be a minor procedure – not a major moment that causes

how make getting IV less painful


Getting an IV should be a minor procedure – not a major moment that causes pain and discomfort.

However, for many patients, even the thought of getting an IV can bring about feelings of apprehension and discomfort. For children, getting an IV can be both intimidating and frightening.

IV lines are used all over the world on a regular basis to draw blood and administer medications or medical treatments. These procedures are very common and one of the most frequent invasive procedures – but sometimes, for reasons we’ll get into below, they result in pain or discomfort in patients.

Fortunately, with the right practices and with compassionate care, it is possible to prioritize patient comfort and provide patient-centered healthcare that minimizes discomfort.

IV Tips and Tricks for Patients

Whether you have a patient who is facing their first-ever IV insertion, or a patient who’s been told they have “tricky veins”, it’s important to put patients at ease and establish trust and comfort.

Below are five simple strategies to help patients prepare their veins and mind for a planned IV insertion:

1. Relax and Distract

The more relaxed a patient is the easier it will be to insert an IV.

Patients can practice relaxation by:

  • Taking deep belly breaths
  • Looking away from the insertion
  • Watching a video on their device
  • Speaking with a family member or caregiver that’s present

2. Promote Hydration

Veins are easier to find – and enter – when they’re hydrated. Dehydrated veins are smaller, more difficult to find, and harder to draw blood from or get fluids into, which could lead to repeated insertions and more discomfort.

When possible, encourage patients to drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to their procedure.

3. Warm the Area

Most hospitals keep their temperature low. Veins may shrink up a bit when patients feel cold.

Encourage patients to dress warmly prior to their procedure or hold a warm compress to the insertion area to help warm up the veins and make them easier to find.

4. Encourage Patients to Advocate for Their Needs

Sometimes simply admitting a fear out loud is enough to reduce some stress. Encourage patients to communicate their fears and worries.

5. Establish Trust

Establishing trust prior to an invasive procedure can increase patient satisfaction, and if by chance something isn’t going exactly as planned, open communication promotes quick resolution and fast management of any discomfort.

IV line insertion is just the first step to IV treatment.

Once the IV is inserted, IVs are covered and secured and monitored for complications. Patients have reported uncomfortable securement or skin issues resulting from medical adhesive materials used.

Understanding a patients risk for skin injury can help providers avoid complications post insertion. Different types of medical adhesives, such as silicones, can be used as a gentler alternative to traditional acrylic-based adhesives.

For children who are nervous about IV procedures

If you have a pediatric patient who is nervous about getting an IV inserted, there are a number of child-friendly steps you can take to help put them at ease.

Medical play can help children process and ‘work out’ their medical experiences. Try using child-friendly words and demonstrate medical procedures using medical play strategies.

When possible, give your pediatric patients a sense of empowerment by letting them touch, hold and play with medical equipment (even play equipment).

Ask the caregiver to bring in a toy or beloved stuffed animal.

What’s Going on When IV Lines Are Painful?

Is IV insertion painful? Why do some IV lines hurt while others seem to be present without much cause for concern?

Generally, having an IV should not hurt. Yes, the insertion may cause slight discomfort, but if a patient is in pain, or is continually bothered by their IV line, there may be something else going on and it is important that patients feel comfortable speaking up to alert their healthcare provider.

There are some reasons why an IV might cause pain and discomfort. For instance:

  • During insertion, the needle could accidentally hit a nerve, causing pain
  • Following IV line insertion, superficial thrombophlebitis (clotting of the vein at the IV site) could occur and cause pain or discomfort
  • IV insertion could also cause mild to severe forms of phlebitis (the often painful swelling and irritation of the walls of a vein)
  • The dressing used to secure the IV line may cause irritation, chemical burning, or a skin reaction to occur

While these experiences above are usually easily resolved, there are some cases where painful IV sites are indicators of more serious peripheral intravenous catheter (PIVC) complications.

Intravascular catheter sepsis, or catheter-related bloodstream infections (CRBSIs), can occur, both carrying a higher risk of long-term health consequences and even death.

Reducing IV Pain and Fears with Compassion and Technology

At Covalon, we believe that healing shouldn’t hurt. Common medical procedures should be as pain-free as possible.

Integrating medical technology with a compassionate approach offers the potential to enhance the overall experience during medical procedures. Such an approach seeks to support the well-being of patients, caregivers, and healthcare teams alike, aiming for a process that is as smooth and comfortable as possible.


Peripheral Line Placement – National Library of Medicine

Preventing medical adhesive-related skin injury (MARSI) – National Library of Medicine

Multivariate analysis of medical adhesive-related skin injury at the site of peripherally inserted central catheter insertion in cancer patients: A prospective cohort study – National Library of Medicine

Cleveland Clinic – Peripheral IV 

National Library of Medicine – Peripheral nerve injury from intravenous cannulation

Mount Sinai – Superficial thrombophlebitis

NHS – Phlebitis

National Library of Medicine – Consequences of intravascular catheter sepsis

National Library of Medicine – Catheter-related bloodstream infections


Disclaimer: The information contained on this blog is provided as a resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for diagnostic or treatment purposes, or as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment by a medical professional.

If you are an individual reading this, please consult your health care provider before making any health care decisions, for guidance about a specific medical condition, and for use of any specific products. Covalon expressly disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any damages, loss, injury, or claim whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on any of the material or information contained in its blog articles or on the website

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