Help kids overcome a fear of needles


— Immunizations are an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Physicians and various health organizations advise that children and adults adhere to a specific schedule of vaccinations that can help them develop antibodies to fend off a variety of illnesses. Unfortunately for kids who fear needles, most immunizations are administered intravenously.

Children fearful of needles are typically hesitant, if not petrified, to receive their immunizations. However, failure to receive recommended vaccinations increases a child’s susceptibility to various diseases, and kids who do not receive their immunizations may be running afoul of the law. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ immunization schedule calls for children to get the bulk of their vaccines before age two. However, additional vaccines must be administered later in life. And while many children outgrow their fear of needles as they approach adolescence, some may still resist. To make the immunization process less painful for children, parents can take certain steps.

· Put on a smile. Children take their cues from their parents. If you show nerves or let on that you are nervous about the immunization shots, your son or daughter may take note of your apprehension and become even more scared of needles than he or she already is. Make light of what is going to happen if the child understands what the visit is all about. Downplay any discomfort and resist the urge to say “don’t worry.” It may actually give the child the impression there is something to worry about.

· Be open and honest. Older children may appreciate hearing the truth instead of being told a tall tale about the immunization process. Explain that the needle will only briefly penetrate the skin, meaning the procedure will be done very quickly.

· Don’t make shots a form of punishment. The threat “behave or the doctor will give you a shot,” is not helpful at all. It will only compound fears of shots and paint the picture that they are a punishment rather than a necessity.

· Listen to concerns. Let your child speak to you about why he or she is nervous about receiving a shot. Offer your support in a warm, matter-of-fact way.

· Offer a distraction. Let the child hold a video game or incentivize the process by promising a sweet or favorite treat, which can take your child’s focus off of the shot being administered.

· Hold your child. Kids may find that sitting on a parent’s lap assuages their fears. For older children who can’t fit on your lap, let them hug you or hold your hand for comfort.

· Use a topical anesthetic. Ask the doctor or nurse if there is a numbing swab or spray that can be used to take the bite out of the needle.

· Lead by example. Take your child with you when you receive vaccinations, so that he or she can witness that the process is both quick and painless.

Immunization shots are seldom fun for children or adults, but there are strategies to make the entire process less painful.