Vaccines can cause discomfort and anxiety in people of all ages. Your child may develop a fear of needles or other medical procedures from media, other people's stories, or their own experiences. Fortunately, as parents or caregivers, you can take measures to ease their nervousness before and during the immunization session, helping ensure everyone has as good a clinic experience as possible.

Prepare Your Youngster Ahead of Time

Children are acutely sensitive to their caregivers' emotions. If vaccines or needles are worrisome for you, try to remain calm throughout your appointment and speak with your child about shots beforehand. Use a straightforward, encouraging tone.

  • Speak with a smooth, even tone of voice.
  • Answer inquiries honestly and use language that reduces fear, such as "you may feel pressure, squeezing, or poking," rather than "pain, hurt, or sting."
  • You might say, "To stay healthy, you'll need the vaccine. A needle will be used to inject the drug into your arm. You'll probably feel a bit of a poke and then it will be done."


Keep your Child Calm During the Appointment

Being held close to you relaxes your child and aids in the safe administration of immunizations by keeping them from flailing their arms or legs. If you and the child sit up straight, this can give them a sense of security and control. When children are distracted during vaccines, research reveals that the portion of the brain that experiences pain is less active. Try telling them a story or singing a song together.


Medical Play

Encouraging medical play around the home is a great way to help children comprehend and cope with medical experiences. It gives them control and tells you a lot about what they think is going on and why. This can assist you, as the caregiver, in clearing up misconceptions and making the procedures easier to understand.

little boy playing doctor with his stuffed toy


Coping Strategy

Your child can create their own individual coping plan. If they're old enough to remember the last time they had a shot, ask them what helped and didn't. This can show you what tactics to use the next time, and also share with them any new methods of dealing with their fear that can replace what didn't work before.


Comfort Items

While you likely don't need to pack a toybox full of distracting items for a quick vaccination appointment, encouraging your child to bring a favorite plush or another comforting toy with them can calm nerves and provide distraction. If the toy can "hold your child's hand" during the shot, or if the child can comfort their stuffed animal, this can help make the whole experience easier on everyone.


Less May Be More

Less information may be beneficial to certain worried children. While lying to your child breeds distrust and increases the likelihood of an outburst during future medical visits, it's also not necessary to reassure a scared toddler that their vaccine is going to hurt a lot. For example, if they ask how much it will hurt, you might tell them "Everyone feels things differently, so you'll have to tell me how you feel. To me, it just felt like a quick poke, and then it was done.”


Simple Language

For smaller children, simple language is better. Avoid asking them things over which they have no control and which could lead you down an unpleasant path (for example, "are you ready to get your flu shot?") Use direct communication instead, such as "it's time to get your flu shot." In the car, do you want to listen to x or x?” This lets them feel they have some control and provides a bit of distraction.


Share a Plan

To understand and feel prepared for what to expect each day, young children often manage best by memorizing sequences of events, even before they understand the notion of time. If you tell your youngster exactly what to expect the day of their shot, and then discuss the steps as they are happening, they might be convinced to look forward to the well-planned outing.


Give Them a "Job"

Tell your child their job is to stay as still as a statue during the shot, while they hold their teddy and close their eyes. Giving them a directive will both distract them and keep them safe and quiet during the procedure. It might be fun to pretend to be a statue, and they know that doing a job you gave them will make you proud.


Positive Attitude

If your child's last doctor's visit was difficult, help them understand how and why this time will be different. Remind them that they're older now, it's a different clinic, or it's a necessary part of becoming a big kid. School-aged children might understand that sitting still or listening to the doctor will help the appointment go by more quickly and make it tolerable. Every child benefits from different advice and methods for dealing with frightening situations, so always try to tailor your reactions to your child.

doctor talking with young girl and mother


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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.