How to Make Needles and Shots less Scary for Children

Is it really possible to make a child unafraid of shots? Not likely, but it can happen. The most important ingredient is a patient doctor and/or nurse. The second ingredient is a mother with nerves of steel. Since the best scenario usually falls somewhere in the middle, there are a couple of tips that actually work. If you’re lucky, your child will find that shots are quick, easy, and relatively painless. Trying to explain this to the about to be poked child is basically pointless and only causes more fear.

With my son, who had to receive allergy shots at age 5, we discovered two things that really worked. First, the nurse insisted on him not looking. She refused to touch him until he turned his head. The second part was up to me. I had to keep him distracted while she scrubbed his arm and inserted the needle. Talking about school or pointing out things in the room usually kept kept his eyes trained on me. It finally reached the point where he would enter the room, pull up his sleeve, and watch the whole thing-at age 5-without a tear!

Years later, at about age 9, my son needed surgery to have a cyst on his lip removed. Because of his age, the doctor insisted on putting him to sleep while he performed the surgery. When the time came, my son freaked out when they started to put the mask over his face. He begged the doctor to give him a shot instead of the mask! Certain that he was not serious, the doctor had me brought into the room. It took awhile to convince the doctor that this hysterical kid really would rather receive a shot than wear that mask. Reluctantly, the doctor complied. When the surgery was over, the doctor brought me back into the room. Upon seeing my son still laying in the chair with the mask over his face, the doctor shouted to the nurses, “Hurry up and get that mask off him before he wakes up!” Apparently, until that day, this doctor had never met a kid who begged for a shot, but my son made a believer out of him!

In the end, my son taught me a lesson. It’s all about what you’re used to and how it was introduced to you. Although my son was used to shots from years of having received them for allergies, I don’t believe he would have reached such a point of immunity if it hadn’t been for a nurse who insisted on distraction and not watching. Unfortunately, this won’t work for every child. All kids are different, and shots are a scary thing, no matter what we say. After all, how do you tell a kid not to be afraid when you’re afraid?