Fear of needles: How to navigate shots, vaccines with children

It seems to be an anxious month for children with anxiety about needles: not only do they need the latest flu vaccine, but with last week’s news that the Food and Drug Administration has approved Pfizer’s COVID vaccine for children as young as 5 years old . years old, there is a good chance that parents are working overtime to prepare their little ones for more than an annoying arm stick.

“Almost all children have some degree of anxiety about shots, especially if their previous experience with shots was stressful,” Natasha Burgert, MD, a Kansas-based board-certified pediatrician with Forbes Health, told POPSUGAR.

“Direct inquiry [their shot anxiety] now have the power to improve your child’s health care during their lifetime. “

Although she said that in her experience, toddlers and preschoolers often have less stress because their memories of shots are not as deep as in an older child, Dr. acknowledged. Burgert, that the problem is both real and can be treated – but can lead to a lifelong aversion. “Creating a calm, positive relationship around shots is so important in young children. For people with needle phobia, the anxiety of getting an injection increases the biological pain response. This chemical response increases the immediate pain sensation the person experiences in the short term while preparing long-term memory for This fear cycle can repeat itself over time, potentially exacerbating the fear and anxiety as a person gets older. “

Not only that, but shooting anxiety is a marker for future hesitation with vaccines, noted Dr. Burgert. “Direct addressing now has the power to improve your child’s health care during their lifetime.”

For her part, Dr. Burgert has many pain-reducing options – such as ethyl chloride spray, anesthetic cream and ShotBlocker – in his office and guides his patients through their pain-relieving choices to see which ones they would like to try. However, there is far more that parents can do to prepare their child for their next shot:

  • Never promise that there will be no shots. “It can lead to false security and can threaten parental trust,” said Dr. Burgert. “Children need to know that the adults around them will be honest.”
  • Do not underline the pain factor. Instead of dismissing their fears or telling them that it will not hurt when it very well can, she suggested another point of discussion. “I like to say, ‘Getting a shot can hurt a little bit, but it helps your body get stronger. Any pain you feel goes away quickly. I want to be here to hold your hand if you want to. . Or you can sit at the exam table alone. What would you like to do? ‘”
  • Never use a shot as a threat. “There are few phrases that are more frustrating for a pediatrician than parents who say, ‘If you do not behave, the doctor will give you a shot,'” Drs. Burgert. It happens more than you would expect, and this statement simply encourages your child to associate shots with punishment. “Plus, associating any medical intervention as a consequence of behavior puts children up in distrust of the medical system.”
  • Be careful not to elaborate on the point. Sometimes parents try so hard to sympathize with their child that they do more harm than good. “Apologizing for a vaccine and expressing excessive reassurance and empathy increases fear of expectation,” said Dr. Burgert. “When parents talk too much about the shots, children become more worried and scared than if fewer words were said. So keep it short and sweet. When shots are discussed, use honest language, make explanations short, stay calm, keep a case – actual attitude, and do not project a personal concern about discomfort onto the children. ”
  • Get your pictures with kids in tow. If children see a parent successfully get a shot, it helps break down the negative association. “I urge parents to get vaccinated with their children, acknowledging the pain of the injection and the sedative technique used to get past the discomfort. For example: ‘Av, it hurt. But I can take a few deep breaths for to calm my body. and now I’m feeling better. I’m safe and I feel okay. Now, let’s take an ice cream. “

Above all, Dr. Burgert to keep in mind that you know your family best. “Some kids do better in the office when they know a shot might come,” she said. “If they need preparation time, briefly discuss the possibility of a shot in advance. But if knowledge of an upcoming vaccine increases your child’s concern, save the conversation until after arriving at the office.”

When it comes to the COVID vaccine, Dr. Burgert that many parents will be pleasantly surprised by their child’s eagerness to get started given how the pandemic has affected their lives – from school closures to canceled gatherings and delays in sports and clubs – for so long. “I have never seen so many children who are eager and willing to roll up their sleeves,” she said. “I hear, ‘I hate shots, Dr. Natasha. But I was excited to get this’.”

Image source: Getty / ER Productions Limited

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