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Tips to Support Your Child When Fear of Needles Arises

  • Don’t make promises for “no shots” any time you are going to the clinic. If you make and break that promise, trust is broken. Don’t joke about the doctor or nurse giving a shot as punishment either. No single shot is ever given to make a child uncomfortable; don’t create that myth, as it sets your child up to believe that the doctor may harm her.
  • Fear of needles is real. Validate your child when he states he is terrified. And then talk directly with the clinician about ways to support your child during the shots.
  • Consider using an antianxiety medication (something like Ativan, Valium, or Xanax) when true needle phobia is present.
  • Consider using a numbing cream (something like EMLA or vapocoolant spray) to numb the skin prior to vaccination. You’ll need a prescription from your clinician to do so, but often the cream provides a bit of comfort and a sense of control and boosts confidence for anxious or fearful children and teens.
  • Consider deep breathing and other behavioral modifications, including distraction at the time of injections, to support your child. Consider seeing a behavioral health clinician as well.
  • Consider the “cough trick.” I offer the cough trick to all of my patients and teens nervous about shots. Studies (and reports from my patients) confirm it works brilliantly!


Additional Information:

Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBE, FAAP
Last Updated
Mama Doc Medicine: Finding Calm and Confidence in Parenting, Child Health, and Work-Life Balance (Copyright © 2014 Wendy Sue Swanson)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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