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

There's nothing my son hates more than getting a shot. How can I ease his fear?
– Laurie

If your son is a toddler or younger child, try taking his mind off the shots by bringing a favorite toy or book to the doctor's office. As he gets the shot, you might have him:

  • 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 his favorite song

You also can hold your son's hand or let him sit in your lap while he gets a shot. But try not to look upset or concerned. 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. This over-the-counter "personal pain relief" device uses cold to help numb the area and vibrations to reduce sensation while a shot is given. Many parents who have used it report good results and less pain for their child.

Consider using a reward system to support brave behavior. Bring stickers or other small prizes that you can give during the appointment 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.

If your son is a teen, encourage him to bring something — a game, book, or music player — that will distract him while he waits. When it comes time for the shot, he can take deep breaths, focus on something else in the room, relax his arm, or cough. Research shows that these techniques can help reduce anxiety and make the shot less painful.

Let the doctor or nurse know ahead of time if you or your son are nervous. They often deal with people who are afraid of shots, and they can help your son relax. Others can support your child too. Mental health professionals 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: Oct 14, 2019

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