How to Help Your Child Get Over Shot Anxiety

Mar 10, 2023
How to Help Your Child Get Over Shot Anxiety
From immunizations to vaccine boosters to obtaining blood for health checks, shots are part of childhood. So, how do you soothe your child’s fear about that upcoming injection? Check these tips from our team about how to handle shot anxiety.

For many children, simply thinking about getting a shot can cause anxious tears that might trigger your protective parenting gene. But, unfortunately, like green beans, baths, and bedtime, injections are sometimes necessary for good health.

Phani Bodavula, MD, FAAP, at Garland Pediatric Practice in Garland, Texas, is a board-certified pediatrician who offers outstanding medical care to children from infancy through adolescence. 

Dr. Bodavula and his team work hard to make their busy practice a warm, welcoming place and a reliable health resource for caregivers and patients.

Dr. Bodavula is a dad and a doctor. He understands both sides of shot anxiety and is happy to offer these tips for easing your child’s fear: 

1. Check your own feelings first

You may feel anxious, stressed, or tense about how your child might react to the upcoming shot. Although infants and young children don’t understand what’s driving your feelings, they can sense your apprehension. 

So take a few deep breaths to reduce stress and share a sense of calm rather than anxiety with your child.

2. Be honest with your child

Let’s face it, injections hurt for a minute. Telling your child they won’t feel a thing reduces your credibility and can cause their trust to wobble. 

Dr. Bodavula recommends that you avoid denying their visit includes a vaccination. Again, this just damages your credibility. Instead, speak the truth by telling your child they’ll probably feel a quick pinch during their vaccine.

Notably, children often respond better to terms like “pinch” and “vaccine” than “pain” and “shot,” so choose your words carefully. And don’t forget to explain that vaccines help them stay healthy.

3. Stand your ground

Back your child up if they’d rather not lie down on the exam table for an injection, which can make them feel more vulnerable. Instead, let them sit in your lap for shots given in the arm. 

Older children or those who must recline, such as for an intravenous (IV) blood draw, may appreciate holding your hand.

4. Focus on breathing

Your body’s reaction to pain decreases when you’re relaxed. Three deep, slow breaths can calm your child if they feel anxious at home, on the way to the doctor’s office, or in the waiting room.

If your child isn’t into relaxing yoga breaths, help slow their breathing and distract them from the immunization by blowing on a hand-held pinwheel toy. 

Infants may respond to a soothing lullaby. Humming works if you’re unsure about sharing your voice with the world.

5. Create a distraction

Bring a small toy, book, or favorite video to distract your child during the injection, encouraging them to focus on you or the object rather than the shot.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends the two-cough trick to distract and reduce injection pain. Have your child cough once and then cough a second time when your provider gives the shot. 

The cough technique requires coordination between your child and the medical provider, but studies show it’s an effective pain management tool for some children.

6. Celebrate vaccine day

Providing a treat (or bribe), such as an afternoon at the park or ice cream for dessert on vaccine day, can create a fond memory that helps reduce anxiety the next time a shot is due. 

Celebrate the day regardless of how your child behaved during their shot. While injections don’t hurt much, they’re uncomfortable and a scary experience for many children. So encourage and praise rather than criticize, even when tears or screaming occur. 

7. Ask for help

Tell Dr. Bodavula or the nurse your child struggles with shot anxiety. They can offer suggestions during the visit that may help calm your child. Fortunately, Dr. Bodavula and his staff are experts at making injections as quick and painless as possible, even for their smallest patients.

Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Bodavula at Garland Pediatric Practice today. Call the office or request an appointment online.