If the thought of a shot brings on tears, anxiety, and sleepless nights for your child – you’re not alone. Trypanophobia – as the fear of needles is technically called, is common among kids under 10 years old.  Some children can get so worked up thinking about a needle or blood that their heart rate and blood pressure rises, and then drops rapidly, causing them to faint. 

August is Immunization Awareness Month, and it’s extremely important for children to attend their annual well checks with their pediatrician to confirm they’re up to date on their immunizations. Regular immunizations protect children from illnesses like measles, whooping cough, chicken pox, and other serious diseases. These diseases are highly contagious, and can be serious for young children and babies. Many children are afraid to get shots, but protecting them from dangerous diseases through vaccination is worth the challenge. 

With COVID-19 vaccines and boosters available, annual flu shots and regular vaccinations, Texas Emergency Care wants to make sure your little ones are prepared.  Below are some tips and strategies you can use to help your children cope while facing their fear of shots.

  • Be honest: Explain that shots can pinch, but it won’t hurt for long. Help your child focus on what they can do to help get through the shot.
  • Practice Beforehand: For younger children, playing with a toy medical kit at home can familiarize them with the tools and gadgets the doctor will use.  You could also read books such as “The Berenstain Bears Go to the Doctor.” 
  • Focus on health: Remind your child that immunizations help protect them from getting sick.
  • Bring distractions: Bring comforting items, like a favorite book or stuffed animal, to help calm and distract your child.
  • Use vibration: Apply vibration near the needle injection site prior to the shot to help minimize the pain. A simple vibrating massager can help, but there are vibrating and cooling tools made specifically for this purpose.
  • Sit up: Ask the provider if your child can sit up instead of lying down for the shot. Children are more fearful when having to lie flat. If your child needs help holding still, try holding your child in a firm, but comforting position on your lap.
  • Keep your cool: Try your best to appear calm and keep a positive attitude. Your child will be more anxious if they sense that you’re anxious as well.
  • Use coping strategies: Encourage your child to use coping strategies such as taking 3-5 deep breathes like you’re blowing out birthday candles or squeezing their muscles and holding for 5 seconds at a time. 
  • Give positive praise: Afterward, tell your child what a great job they did.  Help your child create a positive memory associated with that day.

If you’re still not sure how to help your child cope, let your pediatrician or nurse know ahead of time. They likely have their own tips and tricks to put your child at ease. Studies show that the fear of needles decreases the older kids get, so this phase shouldn’t last forever. 

At Texas Emergency Care, all our facilities are equipped for pediatric emergency care. Our physicians and nurses will work with you to make sure your child feels relaxed and safe under our care.    

Adapted from this article and Cleveland Clinic.