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Helping Kids Overcome a Fear of Shots

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We asked Dr. James Todd, director of Epidemiology and Clinical Microbiology at Children’s Hospital Colorado, for some advice for parents on softening the sting of shots. These tips may help prevent fear – and even a meltdown – at your child’s next visit to the pediatrician.

How can I help make shots less scary?

• Answer your child’s questions about shots honestly. If your son or daughter asks if it will hurt, be honest that they’ll feel a poke of the needle, but the feeling will go away.
• Explain why shots are important, stressing how they protect children from getting sick.
• Tell your child that he or she will receive a shot prior to getting it. Remember that too much advance warning can create anxiety, especially in younger children.
• Humor or distraction at the time of the shot can be beneficial, but excessive reassurance may be counterproductive.
• Rewarding good behavior with a toy or treat can be a positive distraction post-shot.

Can anything help limit the pain from a shot?

• Numbing spray can be used at the injection site, but it can sometimes build anxiety as a child waits for the shot.
• Crying is a natural response, and it’s OK to ask if it hurt.
• You can usually give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen after the shot to help with soreness at the injection site (always check with your doctor before).

What does my behavior have to do with it?

Parents and caregivers should try to remain calm to help ease your child’s fear. If mommy or daddy is upset, your children will be more nervous and reluctant, so try to hide your concerns.

Anything else I should know before the doctor’s appointment?

If you have any immunization concerns, discuss them with your primary care physician ahead of time (not at the appointment in front of your child). Vaccines are safe and very effective. When you do your homework on vaccinations, trust only reputable Internet resources such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as there is a lot of misinformation out there.

Get more information on shots from Children’s Hospital Colorado.

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  • comment avatar Amber's Crazy Bloggin' Canuck February 10, 2012

    Great tips! I think another one is to not tell them too far ahead of time. I.e. last time, I mentioned to my daughter a week before that she had a doctor’s appointment. Then, she had an entire 7 days to build it up in her mind.

    It was ugly. :)

    I’m wondering how old they are when they stop receiving them?…

  • comment avatar Erin H February 11, 2012

    My child? What about ME?

  • comment avatar Stacy February 11, 2012

    check out Buzzy, helps with shots!

  • comment avatar Kristen M February 11, 2012

    Been there. Gets very embarrassing with an older child! Don’t even mention throat cultures:0

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