How to Help Your Child’s Fear of Shots
Shots are never easy. Not even for us adults. But there is a way to help your kids get past their fear of shots and make them a little easier for both parent and child.
I have three children and six grandchildren, and have seen young patients for almost 35 years in the clinic. My colleagues at Avera and I can tell you stories about kids hiding from the needle under the counter. Kids trying to climb the walls. Kids crying. Over the years, though, my colleagues and I have watched parents successfully shepherd their children through shots and recorded how they did it.
Before the shot:
- Be honest. Tell kids the shot might hurt a little for a couple of seconds, but immunizations will keep them from getting sick in the long run. The Centers for Disease Control offer great resources for parents to explain specific shots.
- Realize the reality of shots - they are important for all kids 6 months and older, as this video explains.
- Plan ahead. Write a story with your child about how they will act during the shot. End it by saying there's no reason to be afraid, and remind them that you too get shots. They make everyone more healthy.
- Play doctor at home. Act out getting vaccinations and showing how to be calm and brave.
During the shot:
- Put on a happy face. “Showing kids there's nothing to fear during their immunization appointment can set the tone,” says Jane Hartman, DO, a physician with Avera Orthopedics in Marshall. “Even babies can recognize calm.”
- Distract during the injection. For babies, try singing or wiggling a toy. For older children, coughing or conversation can work. You may already know the best way to distract your child — parents can work together to devise the best approach..
After the shot:
- Manage the pain. “Using an ice pack after the vaccination helps ease discomfort or swelling,” says Avera Medical Group Family Medicine Physician Patty Peters, MD. “A cool, wet cloth can do wonders at the injection site.” Some physicians also suggest Motrin or Tylenol afterward, but ask your doctor.
- Offer comfort. Swaddling, breastfeeding, or cuddling can calm babies. “Deep breathing can help older kids blow out their pain,” says psychiatrist Matt Stanley, DO of Avera Medical Group University Psychiatry Associates Sioux Falls.
- Reward their bravery. Celebrate immunization day with a game, a trip to the park, or another activity your kids enjoy.
Immunizations can protect your kids from getting sick. They protect society, too, by stopping the spread of disease and eventually eliminating it.
Your job: keep your kids on track and as stress free as possible. Learn more about vaccinations and find your downloadable shot checklist.
Tad Jacobs, DO is chief medical officer for Avera Medical Group and formerly practiced family medicine for 28 years in Flandreau, S.D.