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November 29, 2021

Tips for helping kids overcome their fear of needles

Parenting Vaccinations

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children receive dozens of vaccinations between birth and 18 years of age. With so many shots needed during early childhood, it’s no wonder many kids are afraid to go to the doctor. But helping your kids overcome their fear of needles and shots is important. Not only will it make getting shots easier for them; it will also help them build resilience, teach them about the need for preventive medicine and vaccines, and ensure they don’t avoid critical health care as they grow older. Are you looking to help your little one move past their fear? Here are five tips to get you started:

1. Age-appropriate communication

Young children don’t need to know that they’ll receive a shot before they’re in the doctor’s office. It’s alright not to share an upcoming visit with them until a day or two before (more than that may allow anxiety to build), and you can be vague about the possibility of a shot. If you’re asked directly, be honest with your child. If they’re old enough to understand, you can explain that the shot may hurt for a few seconds, but will also help them stay healthy and avoid the discomfort and misery of being sick.

2. Pretend and practice

Many kids have a toy doctor’s kit that parents can use to demonstrate how getting a shot works so their child becomes comfortable with the equipment in a doctor’s office. Practicing getting a shot can help ease the fear of the unknown and make your child more confident when the actual time comes.

3. Stay relaxed and cheerful

Being positive and relaxed helps children feel the same way. No matter how chaotic the scene is in the doctor’s office, smiling will help them feel as at-ease as possible for their shot.

4. Distract your child

There’s nothing wrong with using distraction to help your child get through a shot. Playing a game, watching a show on your phone, or looking at a book can keep their focus off of the shot itself. You can also give your child something to look forward to afterwards, such as a special treat or a fun activity when they get home.

5. Numb the pain

If your child is truly afraid of (or extra sensitive to) the pain of a needle, you can use ice to help numb the injection area before the vaccination. There are also topical numbing creams that can be applied before the appointment to ease the pain.

When the shot is over, praise your child for facing their fear of needles head-on. Positive reinforcement can help make each shot a little less scary until they fully overcome their fear.

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