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7 tips for overcoming your child’s fear of shots

Last Modified: June 18, 2018

Family Medicine

The anticipation of a little poke at the doctor’s office can be almost paralyzing for a frightened little one. Thankfully, Molly Gerke, child life specialist, has some pro tips on helping your son or daughter through their shot anxiety.

A fear of needles is a reality for, not only in children, but adults as well. Anything that is known to induce pain can bring on those emotions. It’s normal to express those fears and to have them, however, shots are a necessity and can protect you and your child from many different illnesses. Here are some effective ways to provide support to your child at and before their next appointment.

  • Honesty.  Never promise that a doctor visit will not include any needles. It may seem like the easiest way to get kids to the doctor without them fighting during the entire checkup. However, if you tell them there are no shots and for some reason they need one, then the child’s trust is broken. If you don’t think shots will be part of the visit, use vague language that leaves a bit of room, like “I don’t believe you need shots,” or “I’m not sure. We’ll find out.”


  • Create a coping plan.  This can be created before the visit and can include deep breathing, guided imagery, comfort positions and distractions. If the child is part of their coping plan, then they in turn gain control over the situation.


  • Bring distractions.  Bring comfort items like a blanket or stuffed animal, an I spy book, a tablet with an already chosen video clip, music or a game. These distractions can all be created in the coping plan ahead of time.


  • Comfort positions.  This is a way for parents to be involved. Ask the staff what position would be best to hold your child. Sitting up increases control and makes them less vulnerable. This also decreases the amount of staff needed in the room. It is extremely overwhelming and can make a child more fearful when many staff members that they have never met before come to help hold a child for a procedure.


  • Be calm and empowering.  Children feed off of our energy very quickly. If you are anxious they will be anxious. Empower your child through words explaining that they are being so brave. Focus on what they are doing well. For example: “You are doing such a great job at holding still,” or “You are doing your deep breathing so well I am so proud of you!”


  • Do not refer to getting a shot as a form of punishment.  For example, stay away from saying, “If you don’t behave you are going to get a shot.” Shots may hurt, but they help protect us. Focus on health and remind them that shots help protect them from getting sick.


  • Buzz.  Buzzy is a drug free pain relief tool. Buzzy utilizes vibration and cold to desensitize the nerves. Some facilities have one that the staff can utilize, so it never hurts to ask. If not, you can always browse their website to purchase for your family.


Have questions? Contact our Child Life Services team for more support or hands on procedure help at, (260) 672-661.

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