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How to Help Pediatric Patients Overcome 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.

If you work in patient care, you may have stories of kids hiding from the needle under the counter, climbing the walls, and crying. But there are proven ways for parents and providers to successfully shepherd children through shots.

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 and Prevention offer great resources for parents to explain specific shots.
  • Show success. Our website features videos of kids staying strong while facing the needle.
  • Plan ahead. Tell the child a story about how the shot will go. End it by saying there’s no reason to be afraid. Dr. Katherine Dahlsgaard at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia writes a great blog about this and other psychological strategies for kids.
  • Play doctor at home. Act out getting vaccinations and showing how to be calm and brave.
  • Prep the shot site: “Applying anesthetic cream 20 minutes before the shot can help numb the pain,” says Avera physician Dr. Nate Timmer.

During the shot:

  • Put on a happy face. “Showing kids there’s nothing to fear during their immunization appointment can set the tone,” says Avera physician Dr. Jane Hartman. “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.

After the shot:

  • Manage the pain. Ice packs or a cool, wet cloth can be helpful. 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 Dr. Matt Stanley, Avera psychiatrist.
  • Reward their bravery. Celebrate immunization day with a game, a trip to the park, or another activity your kids enjoy.

Immunizations protect kids from getting sick. They protect society, too, by stopping the spread of disease and eventually eliminating it. Parents can keep kids on track and as stress free as possible. Learn more about vaccinations and find a downloadable shot checklist at avera.org/shots.

To get your flu shot, visit the Hegg Shot Clinic Wednesdays in September and October from 4-7pm. All you need is a short sleeve shirt and your insurance papers for this walk in clinic on Wednesday evenings.

 

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