Preparing Kids for Shots
Berkeley Parents Network >
Advice about Health >
Preparing Kids for Shots
My 6-year-old son has a terrible needle phobia. So we are in search of a
compassionate pediatrician who would be willing to work with him either
behaviorally or with sedatives/anesthesia. Our current pediatrician
favors restraining him for shots, which I refuse to do. Any leads would
be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
at the pediatric medical group in Berkeley has done
extensive work in preparing children for immunizations with hypnosis. I
have worked with him professionally and think highly of him.
You should consider Ralph Berberich MD. He is a leader in techniques to
help children with shots. I have personally seen him make a tremendous
difference for children and their families about phobias such as this...
My 10 year old daughter was exactly the same way until this year when a
parent told us about using Lidocaine cream 10 minutes before the shot.
My daughter's behavior and anxiety was so bad that nurses would remember
her from year to year when she got a flu shot. It was horrid. However,
she had to have two booster shots this year, we put the Lidocaine on
both upper arms just in case they used the other arm. We explained that
the cream would help her not physically feel the shot. We then helped
her manage the anxiety. It helped that we went when there was almost no
wait time. Also, the thing I love, love, love about Kaiser is that the
pediatrician does not give shots and they are not even given in the
regular pediatrician's office.
My daughter does not associate the shots with a visit to the doctor at
all. Sometimes the shots are on the same day as an office visit and
sometimes they're not.
My daughter admitted that she was nervous about going in for shots this
last time, but also said she did not feel the shots AT ALL with the
Lidocaine - best $8.00 we've ever spent.
Mom of an anxiety-free daughter (about shots anyway)
My teenage daughter has a phobia with needles and has had
a hard time with any vaccinations lately. She just had a
blood draw and almost passed out. She had an anxiety
attack about it the night before. Then she was very upset
during the draw and afterwards had the shakes, was light-
headed and had to take awhile to calm down. She held a
stuffed animal during the procedure to try to help her
stay calm. I tried to get her to use a focal point and
relaxation techniques. Does anyone have suggestions about
how to help her more for the next time she needs her blood
tested? I want to give her tools to help her the rest of
her life with this.
I am 60 and have had this phobia since I was 11. I used to
be embarassed and ashamed and put up with numerous
attitudes about being 'adult', now, I won't. I tell the
person taking my blood, straight out, I'm a wuss and have
passed out in the past. This is the truth. I tell them to
be gentle and at least half the time they will ask me if I
want to lay down for the draw. I tell them to engage me in
conversation, about anything, as it keeps me diverted, I
also never look at the damn needle. In the past I have
tried using an ice cube to numb the area first, only good
if you know where they are going to draw, also headphones
playing LOUD music (diversion). Unless it's a fasting
situation, I make sure to drink lots of water, and to eat
something prior, as it helps with keeping blood pressure
up. I also will take Rescue Remedy once in awhile. It is a
homeopathic remedy that is good for calming. I also try to
schedule first thing in the morning so I don't think
about it all day. Much better than I used to be, and not
willing to put up with any crap about being sensitive.
Your daughter is in great company.
Well, I had a needle phobia as a child, too. Occasionally, I
fainted. Some things that helped:
(1) not looking at the
injection taking place, at all, or even at the needle,
(2) Having someone kind gently stroke or pat me
on the other arm or on the leg during the procedure, so I
could concentrate on their love and the comforting sensation
(3) Needing allergy shots for bee stings -- I was more
phobic about the bees and my reaction to a sting than the 2
allergy shots a week, for a year. I still don't look when I
get a vaccine, dental novacaine or a blood draw, but I no
longer freak out.
(4) When getting an epidural for a
C-section, I visualized flower buds opening. I wish your
daughter luck in finding her own paths to overcoming this
fear and think it's wonderful that you want to support her
Hi -- I have the same problem and I think it was at its peak
when I was a teen. The worst experience I had was when I
got up quickly after a blood draw and started walking out
and was very close to blacking out. I was disoriented and
the room started closing in on me. Here's how I deal with
- Avoid looking at the needle
- I always tell the technician/nurse that I have a hard time
with blood draws and the like
- Take deep breaths before, during, and after
- I always sit or lie down for several minutes after so I
don't pass out.
Good luck to your daughter, I'm sure she can overcome the
battle if she doesn't psyche herself out.
Any suggestions for preparing my 13-month old daughter for
shots/vaccinations? I'm not sure what to tell her before we go,
or when we're there; how to handle it so she knows the truth
about what's coming but that we can deal with it appropriately.
I just took my 15 month old in for shots. I didn't do anything to
prepare him. The nurse came in and stuck a needle in his leg. He
cried for 30 seconds and then stopped. That was it, just like all
the rest of the 1st year shots. Is there more? I'm guessing I'll
need to do more once he's old enough to remember past experience
and have fears....Until then, making no fuss at all seems to work.
It's sweet of you to be concerned, but unless your 13mo is
unusually precocious, I don't think you need to do much
preparation. I have a 19mo of average
intelligence/communication skills, and he certainly never
expressed any worry about shots before or after they happened.
If it makes you feel better, you can mention that there will be
shots, that they will hurt but only for a minute, and that they
will help prevent sicknesses that are worse than the shots. But
that's the kind of prep I do with my 3yo, not a toddler. It
might help to read a picture book about going to the doctor, so
she'll know what to expect in general. There are a million of
them -- ask your librarian for a recommendation.
no prep needed. just distract her when it's happening.
mom of 3
I have a 13 month old child and I don't think she would have any
idea what I was talking about if I tried to explain shots. You
can help her to get through it easier by giving comfort during
and after the shots rather than trying to make her understand at
this age. If she's anything like my baby, she'll forget the pain
within 5 minutes of getting the shots. I find that distractions
like a toy or some cheerios or looking out a window helps with
getting over the first few minutes after a shot.
I suggest NOT talking about shots before a doctor's visit. Kids get soooooo scared
about the shots that it overwhelms them and makes them afraid of the doctor's
office. I would talk about all the things the doctor might do (not too far ahead of
time--maybe in the car on the way there), like listen to her heartbeat with a
stethoscope, look in her ears with a special flashlight, etc. A 13 month old is pretty
young to even comprehend most of that. As she gets older she might want more
information. But the shot issue should be downplayed. You can always say, ''I don't
know if you'll need a shot--we'll have to see what the doctor says.'' Later, when
she's older (3 or 4) you can explain why we need shots (''to keep us healthy so we
don't get very sick''.)
Berkeley Mom of 3
there was an article in I believe the Oregonian or Bend Bulletin
about some of the techniques pediatricians are using to make
shots less painful (similar to this article:
http://www.detnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070410/LIFESTYLE/704100393/1005). They ranged from
drinking sugar water just before the shot to using a pressure
ring during the shot to applying some sort of topical ointment.
Ibuprofrin also works. I don't have the date of the article
with me but it may be worth doing a google search or talking to
your pediatrician. Why not make it less painful? If it is less
painful, they're more likely to dread it less next time.
I've also found that talking about the post-doctor treats (toy,
ice-cream, something) helped a bit. Otherwise, you just have to
get through it.
My daughter needs 4 or 5 shots for her 4 year check up. Is there a way to prepare her
for this? I want to avoid physically holding her down. Thanks.
My 4 year old just had her visit and shots...Advice I tried to follow from nurses on
previous visits: Don't talk about the shots too much in advance. Don't even bring
up the office visit until the day before. Focus discussions about the visit on the
''healthy check-up'' part, how the doctor helps keep us healthy by looking at all our
parts--in our ears, mouth, eyes...and feeling our tummies and hitting our knees
with her little hammer.
If my daughter asked if she'll need shots, I replied that I didn't know, and we'd have
to wait to see what the doctor says (that what nurses in the past have replied in the
early minutes of a visit, to my older daughter). Little books about visiting the doctor
are good preparation too--they usually include a page on ''the shot'' but play it
down, and focus on the exam before, and the reward after --toy or lollipop, or
You say you don't want to have to hold her down; sad fact is, shots hurt, and kids
know it. As mature and prepared as my 5 year old was last year, I had to hold her
VERY securely on my lap while she got her shots. (Singing helps calm them down a
bit.) The good news: the nurse told her that after that, she would not need any
more shots until she was 10! Best of luck,
I was always honest with my kids and told them the shots would hurt. I didn't scare
them , but I just told them it was going to be a small ouchie but it would stop
hurting. And that the little ouchie was better than getting really, really sick, which
might happen without the shot. I also assured them that I would let them sit in my
lap and squeeze me as hard as they could while getting the shot. I also told them
that if they needed to cry it was okay. Oh, last thing: I also told them I got shots too
when I was little and I was just fine. They like to hear that you've gone through the
same thing. A lot of their fear is not knowing what to expect. My kids always got
through it pretty well. It was worse when they were infants and had no idea what the
heck was going on.
When I took my son in for his 4 y.o. check-up, I forgot that he
would need shots. I didn't prepare him for the shot just
talked about the check-up and said, ''I don't think so'' when he
asked about shots. In retrospect that was the best thing for
him. I think most kids will build up fear in advance, but be
able to deal with it OK when presented with the sitiuation. I
don't want to suggest that you should trick your daughter, but
sometimes too much ''preparing'' creates dread.
Just do it
If you belong to Berkeley Pediatrics they just started offering
a topical analgesic cream to use on children (18 mos and up)
before their shots. I used it recently with my daughter and I
highly recommend it. She didn't feel a thing! They charge $5
for a small container of it. You must put it on 15 minutes
before the shots in order for it to take affect.
This cream is also available over the counter for about $30 a
tube at any pharmacy.
Other than that, a prophylatic dose of Tylenol doesn't hurt
either. And sucking on a piece of hard candy or lolly during
the shots is a nice distraction too.
A TV show mentioned using anesthetic (EMLA) cream on your child's
skin to make immunization shots less painful. (It is available by
prescription.) It seems like a good idea to me but a relative
told me her physician opposed it (but she can't remember why).
Has anyone tried anesthetic cream for shots? Did it help? Is
there a good reason not to use it?
Go ahead and use the cream. We have been using it for 5 years
and actually used it this morning for my 5 year old - he had to
have three big shots prior to starting kindergarten - only the
last one hurt (MMR I think) and it was really no big deal. All
my friends had warned me about the 5 year check-up because of the
pre-kindergarten shots and it was terrible for the kids - my son
sailed through. It works so well that sometime in the past he
didn't even know he'd gotten a shot.
EMLA is a topical anesthetic. It will only provide temporary
numbing to the skin. Most vaccinations are IM (intramuscular)
and thus the EMLA would not reach deep enough to make any
difference. The only vaccination that is given SQ
(subcutaneously) I believe is the polio vaccine, so you would
only potentially get benefit for this vaccine.
I don't think it's the actual needle-prick that hurts the baby
that much with shots, it's the medicine going into the muscle (or
lack of muscle). I usually just give tylenol 30 min before and it
works really well.
EMLA will only numb the skin superficially. I think what hurts
with a shot is more the medicine going in than the actual prick
itself. EMLA is generally used for more lengthy and painful
procedures such as lumbar punctures and placing IVs. That said,
it certainly won't HURT to try EMLA if you want to.
We used Emla cream all the time for our one child who hated
getting shots. Only difficulties are you have to know where the!
shot will be given (easy to find out) and need to apply it with
an occlusive (''airtight'') bandage/band-aid, the longer before
the shot the better (we did 2 hours). Worked wonderfully and
our child was no longer afraid of getting shots.
- heavy user
Our doctor prescribed an anesthetic cream for my son's bloodtest
(for lead) when he was about 2 years old, 1. I'm not sure I
would use it again. The warnings on the directions were
terrifying (serious potential side effects) and the timing had to
be fairly specific, which didn't end up working that well with
staffing at the lab we used. Since shots don't have to be as
exact as a blood draw, I myself would not take the risk of using
it as a trade off for the pain relief.
- Hates shots too, but...
this page was last updated: Nov 28, 2010
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network