Is your child afraid of needles? Helping them to overcome their fear of shots will make doctor visits more comfortable for both of you. More importantly, you may increase the odds that your child will seek appropriate medical care for years to come. Injections may sting for a minute, but they play an important role in preventing and managing a wide variety of serious health conditions.
As a parent, there are many things you can do to ease your child’s anxiety and to help your child feel more comfortable at the doctor’s office. First, it helps to let your doctor know, so that they can be prepared. Dr. Michelle Kirwan, CFCE Chief Medical Officer, says, “ Getting vaccinated is a brave and important step, and I'm proud of patients for taking care of their health! Vaccines help protect us and those around us, keeping us strong and safe. You show great responsibility and care for others by getting vaccinated. Remember, you're making a positive difference in the world, and I believe in you.”
Try the following tips to make injections and other procedures less scary:
Be honest. You’ll lose credibility if you tell your child they won’t feel anything. Let them know what to expect. Use comparisons they can understand, like being pinched or stubbing their toe.
Stay calm. Your child will be influenced by your attitude. Think positive and sound encouraging.
Use distractions. Shifting your child’s attention can be very effective. You might ask them to count backwards or sing a favorite song. You could also cough at the last second.
Provide comfort. Hold your child on your lap or hug them. Physical contact can be soothing.
Coordinate visits. Anticipation can sometimes be more intense than the experience itself. Ask your doctor if it’s possible to combine multiple shots in one visit to shorten the process.
Explore other options. Sometimes you can avoid an injection. Check to see if your child could receive an alternative such as a nasal spray.
Swaddle babies. What about children who are too young for conversation? Infants may tolerate a shot more easily if you wrap them up or give them a pacifier.
Follow recommendations. Your pediatrician or family doctor can advise you about what shots your child needs. They may also give you aftercare instructions that will minimize soreness after an injection.
Other Tips for Making Doctor Visits More Comfortable for Your Child
Wellness checks and routine visits are essential because children develop and change rapidly. These tips may help if your child has other common fears related to stranger anxiety or unpleasant memories.
Keep these tips in mind:
Talk about it. Your child may feel more confident if they know what the doctor is going to do at each visit. Give them age-appropriate information. Younger kids may enjoy rehearsing with a toy doctor kit.
Bring entertainment. Your visit is more likely to go smoothly if you can keep your child happy in the waiting room. Come prepared with stuffed toys and other comfort objects, as well as toys, games, and books.
Offer rewards. Some doctors will give children stickers and toys to make visits more enjoyable. You might also want to plan a fun activity for later in the day, such as stopping to buy a new book (or borrow one from the library).
Develop relationships. If possible, try to build a long-term relationship with your child’s health care team. Follow the rules and respect their time. Come prepared with any relevant questions and share constructive feedback.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, almost two-thirds of children are afraid of needles, but they usually become less nervous as they get older. Until then, you can help your child to relax and grow up with a positive attitude about seeking medical care when they need it.