7 Ways to Make Shots Less Scary for Kids

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Making sure kids aren’t afraid of needles can help keep them healthy in the long term.
Experts are worried that kids who are afraid of needles may not get recommended vaccines or treatment when they’re older. Getty Images
One of the worst things to witness as a parent is your child in pain. But many of us, along with our pediatricians, dismiss the anxiety and pain that can come with vaccines.
Adults understand that the pain will only last a second, but kids don’t care about that when they’re ridden with panic. As a result, plenty of children grow up with a fear of needles and doctor visits, which can make routine wellness visits an all-out war.
As children age, that unmitigated fear may turn them into adults with phobias, who avoid much-needed vaccines and healthcare altogether.
Not all doctors believe that parents and kids should just muddle through the pain. In fact, several clinics offer programs to reduce or eliminate needle-related pain — a practice that’s having a positive impact on kids and adults.
Have medical questions? Connect with a board-certified, experienced doctor online or by phone. Pediatricians and other specialists available 24/7.
The need for needle pain intervention
Why should trying to lessen or prevent needle pain be a priority? Fear of needles can lead to a decline in vaccination rates, and a lifelong avoidance of proper healthcare.
“We know that there are many immediate and long-term psychological and physical effects of poorly managed pain for needles. Children get scared, don’t want to go to the doctor, and it’s harder for parents to get them there,” said Christine Chambers, PhD, a professor in pediatrics and psychology who studies pediatric pain. “We also know that poorly managed pain early in life can make children’s bodies more vulnerable to pain later on and puts them at risk for developing chronic pain. For all these reasons, both parents and doctors should prioritize pain management.”
“The reality is, we have evidence-based solutions to easily manage needle pain in children of all ages, so it just makes sense to use these strategies in practice,” Chambers added.
the following strategies can help reduce or alleviate pain from vaccine and blood draws.
Using topical anesthesia to numb the area where the needle will be inserted can significantly lower the amount of pain. Doctors can use lidocaine cream, an over-the-counter product that can be used safely in infants. Applying the cream 30 minutes before a shot or blood draw can reduce or prevent pain all together. To do this, you’ll want to know ahead of time where the doctor plans on “sticking” the child, so you may have to make a call to coordinate it.
Sarah Clark, MPH, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said calling ahead to inquire about numbing cream — and letting your child know how the cream can help and that you asked for it — can help them feel better.
“Rather than avoid the issue and hope things go okay, this approach allows the parent to acknowledge the child’s anxiety and come up with a plan to address it,” Clark told Healthline.