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What Can I Do to Ease My Child’s Fear of Shots?

There’s nothing my son hates more than getting a shot. Is there anything I can do to lessen his fear?
– Laurie

Yes, there is. If your son is a toddler or younger child, try taking his mind off the shots by bringing a favorite toy or book to the doctor’s office. You might have him count, sing a song with you, or look away (maybe at a picture on the wall). You might even let him wear headphones and listen to his favorite song during the shot.

You can also try holding your son’s hand or letting him sit in your lap while he gets a shot, but try not to look upset or concerned. Children can pick up on your anxiety, and it can make them anxious as well. Also, don’t forget to praise your child afterward. A little positive reinforcement can make the next trip to the doctor easier.

When feasible, try to do something fun after the appointment. A trip to the park or playground can make the overall immunization experience less unpleasant.

If your son is a teenager, encourage him to bring something — a game, book, or music player — that will distract him while he waits. When it comes time for the shot, he can try taking deep breaths, focusing on something else in the room, relaxing his arm, or coughing as the needle is inserted. Research has shown that these techniques can help reduce anxiety and make the shot less painful.

Let the doctor or nurse know ahead of time if you or your son are nervous. Medical professionals routinely deal with people who are afraid of shots, and they may be able help your son — and you — relax.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: September 2012