Why are some children afraid of needles/taking shots?

We provide some tips to help children overcome their fear of shots and vaccinations.

It’s common for children or even grown-ups to be afraid of needles or taking shots. For some, this fear is so severe that they refuse to partake in any treatment or life-saving medications. This includes needle treatment such as vaccinations.

This fear of needles is often caused by classical conditioning. When a child undergoes vaccination at a very young age, pain starts to be associated with needles. These common events are a few examples of what kick-starts a child’s fear of needles. A lot of these children remember this pain and discomfort whenever they see needles, sometimes even anything related to healthcare. This fear usually stays with the child for the rest of their lives, becoming a phobia, which also results in avoidance of accepting any treatments involving needles.

So what can you do?

Here are some tips for helping your child who fears needles/shots

  • Calm yourself
    • It is understandable if you are worried for your child, as any parent would. However, your child will sense this, making them anxious. Try to appear calm and keep a positive attitude. This way, your child will muster up the courage to face his or her fear of shots.
  • Honest explanation 
    • Gently explain to your child that shots can hurt, but the procedure won’t last long. Talk to them and sincerely explain the importance of the treatment. You must be able to provide a proper reason why they need to take the shot.
  • Make your child feel heard

    • Use this chance to let them know you understand their worries. By listening to them and responding in ways like “I understand that you don’t like it, but…” to make your child may feel like you are there for them. You must also refrain from telling them “It’s not a big deal” or “don’t worry” as it makes them feel that you do not understand them, worsening their anxiety.
  • Make use of distractions

    • Help them focus on something else to get through the shot. Use distractions to help your child get his mind off the pain from the shots. Some examples include:
      • counting to 10
      • singing a song with them
      • listening to his/her favorite song
      • looking away from the shot
      • bring his favorite toy or book
  • Deep breathing

    • Taking deep breaths is an excellent example of a coping strategy to help your child. Take deep breaths by first inhaling through the nose and then blowing out through the mouth. Repeat this 3 to 5 times or as needed by your child.
  • After-shot care

    • You can give a hug, cuddle, kiss, and soft whispers to your child after the session. These may help your child get through the pain and other mild reactions they receive after taking their shot.