How to Ease Your Child's Fear of Shots


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South Shore Health

Vaccines are the best way to protect against influenza and a number of other illnesses - but that's not much comfort to children who are afraid of getting shots.

It's perfectly reasonable for children to be anxious about getting a shot.

After all, the pinch that comes with a shot undeniably hurts, and the mere sight of a needle can cause fear for a child (and some adults) as well.

For some children, fear of getting shots can lead to fear of any sort of doctor's visit, which makes regular check-ups or sick visits even more stressful for parents and children.

While fear of shots is completely normal, there are things that parents can do to make the process a little bit easier on their children.

Pediatricians from South Shore Medical Center got together and came up with the list of tips below, which should help ease your child's anxiety and turn a shot into just another part of a doctor's visit.

Tell the truth.

Don’t say the shot won't hurt - kids will learn that isn't true and you can lose their trust.

The injectable vaccine comes with a very small needle, so it undeniably hurts a little bit. It's best to explain that your child might feel a small pinch to their upper arm.

It also may help to let children know that the purpose of the small pinch is to help prevent them from feeling even worse from a different illness.

Know the right timing.

Some children do better with little or no anticipatory information regarding a shot, while others are better served by knowing well in advance.

You know your child best, so decide the appropriate amount of time in advance to let your child know they'll be getting a shot.

Consider a reward.

While some parents may hesitate to "bribe" their children, sometimes even a small incentive (like a lollipop or a sticker) can help ease the pain.

A treat gives your child something to look forward to while also acknowledging their bravery in a positive way.

Provide immediate relief. 

After a vaccination, have your child remain seated or rest in your lap for a few minutes to make sure they don’t get light-headed, then rub the injection site if it's sore and decrease any swelling by applying an ice pack for about 10 minutes.

Empower Your Child.

Reassure them that as they grow, they will get better and better at tolerating injections.

This sense of empowerment can help them overcome not only the shots but other hurdles from everyday life.