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What Can I Do to Ease My Child's Fear of Shots?

My Kids Hate Getting Shots. What Can I Do?

Do shots make your kids nervous? If so, they're not alone. Many people (not just kids!) dread them because they are afraid of needles or worry that the shot will hurt.

If your child is a toddler or younger child, try taking their mind off the shots by bringing a favorite toy, comfort item, or book to the doctor's office. As they get the shot, you might have them:

  • count to 10
  • sing a song with you
  • look away at a picture on the wall or out a window
  • wear headphones and listen to a favorite song

You also can hold your child's hand or let them sit in your lap while they get the shot. In fact, the medical team can teach you a supportive hold to help your child stay still while you comfort them. Be aware of your own emotions and expressions. Kids look to their parents, especially in a new or anxious situation. If you're calm and relaxed, your child is more likely to be too.

You might have heard about a tool called Buzzy. You can buy this "personal pain relief" device without a prescription. It uses cold to help numb the area and vibrations to reduce sensation while a shot is given. Many parents report good results and less pain for their child. Your doctor’s office may have similar tools/items to help manage discomfort during a shot.

It also helps to plan ahead for a visit where your child will get a shot. Practicing at home with pretend shots can ease anxiety that may build as a child waits to get a shot. Also, consider using a reward system to support brave behavior. Bring stickers or other small prizes that you can give during the visit and offer praise. You might do something fun after the visit as a reward for success. A trip to the park or playground can make the day's memories more pleasant.

Encourage older kids or teens to bring something — a game, book, or music — that will distract them while they wait. When it comes time for the shot, they can take deep breaths, focus on something else in the room, relax the arm, or cough. Research shows that these techniques can help reduce anxiety and make the shot less painful.

For kids of any age, let the office know ahead of time if they're nervous. The staff often deals with people who are afraid of shots, and can help kids relax. Also, mental health providers and Child Life specialists offer education, support, and tools to help kids face fears and feel more comfortable getting their shots.

Reviewed by: Zachary Radcliff, PhD
Date Reviewed: Aug 1, 2023

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