Everything you need to know about preparing for a blood test.
Let’s be honest, the thought of booking a blood test isn’t going to spark a sense of joy in most people – but, most of us will need one at some time. Knowing how to be best prepared for a blood test can save you time, worry and ensure the results are as accurate as possible. The old motto, be prepared is going to stand you in good stead when getting ready for a blood test.
Why do I need a blood test?
Answers to questions about our health can be found in our blood. Clues to our levels of general health and fitness, markers for cancers, sexual health, reproductive health – and other conditions, diseases and illnesses can be found by blood screening.
However, the way in which we prepare ourselves for testing depends on what we’re being screened for. Some tests will require fasting prior to blood being taken and possible changes to medication in the run-up to the test. Others won’t require any changes to daily life.
For some of us, blood test preparation will be more mindful – nerves and anxiety around needles can be overwhelming.
Should I fast before a blood test?
Fasting is the term given to abstaining from food or drink for a given period of time. It ensures that our bodies, more importantly our blood, is in optimum condition to be drawn and tested. If you’ve been told that you need a blood test, it’s likely you’ll know whether you need to fast or not. But you might not be sure why you’ve been asked to do this.
Well, if your iron levels are being screened, for example, you’ll be asked to fast beforehand. This is because the nutrients, fats, carbohydrates and vitamins that we absorb when we eat and drink can cloud the results. The outcome of this could mean you need a re-test or you’re given a false positive or false negative.
Other tests such as those investigating liver, cholesterol, renal, blood glucose or cholesterol issues may require fasting too. Some tests may not need you to abstain from eating – but to avoid certain foods in the run-up to the screening. For example, a faecal occult test (where a stool sample is tested for the presence of blood) requires the patient to avoid red meat, broccoli and certain medications, but other foods are fine.
If you’re not sure – check with your doctor or medical professional.
What about my medication?
In general, you should continue taking prescribed medication before your blood test. If you’re needing to make changes, your doctor or medical professional will let you know beforehand.
There are times when your blood is being screened to check your medication is working – or at the correct dose. In these cases, continue to take your medication as you would do usually.
If you take herbal supplements or vitamins, these will not generally interfere with your results. However, some vitamins that contain fats can cloud results, so do check with a health professional first.
I am really nervous – what can I do?
Nerves can get the better of us all – needles can unsteady even the coolest customer. It’s pretty normal to be unsettled by the thought of having blood drawn, so don’t be embarrassed about talking to your doctor or nurse about how you feel. You’re certainly not going to be the first!
You can prepare for your appointment by eating a healthy breakfast (as long as you’ve not been told to fast). This will stabilise your blood sugars and make you feel calmer. Drink plenty of water too, it will keep you hydrated. And don’t forget to take a healthy snack for after the test – this can be much needed.
Manage your anxiety – what is it that you’re afraid of? Blood, fainting, feeling sick, pain? Once you’ve pinpointed your fear you can control it. Knowing exactly what you’re worried about and the steps you can take to avoid the unthinkable happening, the more prepared you are. There are numbing creams out there to help combat worries around pain – looking away can reduce the chance of spying your own blood and the concerns of fainting. Breathing deeply is an NHS recommended technique for dealing with stressful situations too.
If it’s the waiting room that’s overwhelming you, take a book or listen to some music. This can minimise the anxiety that builds as you sit waiting.
Here are a few tips that might help manage anxiety:
- bring someone with you (check with the clinic first)
- let your medical professional know how you feel – they’ll have met plenty of other people who feel just like you before, and know how to put you at ease
- use a numbing cream if you’re afraid of the pain associated with needles
- wear a warm layer of clothing – this helps the blood flow and raises the veins
- bring something to distract you as you wait.
What should you not do before a blood test?
Even if you’ve not been asked to fast prior to your blood test – don’t overeat. Certain fats, vitamins and minerals can interfere with results so just maintain a healthy diet on the day of the test.
Avoid smoking, alcohol or any strenuous activities before your blood test as they can skew results.
Don’t panic! Speak to a medical professional if you’ve any concerns or worries. We’re used to answering questions and putting our patients at ease. We’re highly trained professionals who understand worries you may have over the test itself – and the results you’re going to be waiting for. Trust us to be there for you – it’s what we do.
What time of day is best for a blood test?
If you’ve been fasting, it might be beneficial to book your blood test for early morning. This means the majority of the fasting time will take place through the night and help you to avoid hunger pangs. Some practices offer early appointments so you can grab breakfast straight after your test.
If you’re not required to make any dietary changes, you can book the appointment at any time that suits you.
How do I book a blood test?
If you think you need to book a private blood test, come and speak to us. If you’ve concerns about any aspects of your health, it’s best to act. Our clinic is led by experienced professionals who care and want to help find answers to questions you may have.
We screen for health related issues around: sexual health, thyroid health, health and fitness, gut health, cancers, fertility, pre and post travel screening and chronic fatigue.
We offer same day appointments so you can be reassured that any questions you have will be answered quickly. We also call all our patients to give results directly over the phone so you get the information you need, expertly – and delivered with the care you would expect and need.
Remember, we have three dedicated clinics across London. We’re never more than five minutes walk from a tube station or bus stop – meaning we’re so easy to get to. Pop in and see how we can help you take good care of yourself – and get the best out of your life.
Need a question answered?
Call us: 020 7112 5198.
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