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Helping your Child with Needle Phobia

  • Give some advance warning
    • Children should know what to expect when they go to the doctor. Blindsiding or surprising them with a vaccine or blood draw can cause distrust and anxiety. Children may develop distrust of the parent, medical professionals as well as fear of the doctor’s office.
    • Advance warning of a medical intervention such as a shot or blood draw can be given a week ahead of time. For younger children (5 and under) 1-2 days before is sufficient. This allows children to have time to process, discuss, and share fears but does not give a long period of time to worry about it.
  • Help your child get used to the idea and know what to expect
    • Younger children can practice “playing doctor” on stuffed animals. Using a doctor kit with play can help them understand instruments used in an appointment.
    • Children can also have the opportunity to see items used during a visit such as gloves, prep pads, band-aids, etc. When children are allowed exposure to these items before a visit it helps them feel more comfortable when they see them in the office.
    • Read to your child about the doctor! Reading a book about a doctor's visit will help them understand what to expect. "The Little Ouch” by Katherine Picarde, “Sofia and the Shot” by Sarah Wilson and “We’re Going to the Doctor” by Campbell Books are a few examples.
  • Plan for what your child will be doing during the visit
    • Let the child’s doctor and office staff know ahead of time your child has a fear of needles and/or has a difficult time getting shots or blood draws.
    • Try to avoid clinics and schedule appointments with medical staff so they can prepare and support your child.
    • You can create your own Poke Plan by the Meg Foundation to bring to the visit. This allows your child to be part of the process.
    • Your child can handle the gloves and band-aids, giving them a job and opportunity to feel in control.
    • Ask for support services, such as our Behavioral Health Clinician to help prepare or support during the visit.
    • Try to avoid restraining your child if possible – this only adds to the child’s fear of needles and can create a negative experience that they will associate with the doctor’s office.
  • Plan for what you will do during the visit
    • Children learn by observing and learning from the adults in their lives! Caregivers should remain calm, cool and collected as much as possible.
    • Assure your child and remind them of the plan they have in place and their coping skills, validating that they can be successful in their goal.
    • Reward your child’s bravery! Make a plan ahead of time on how they want to celebrate getting through their appointment safely by meeting their goal of getting the procedure done.

Coping Strategies

  • Deep Breathing
    • Help your child practice breathing activities beforehand. They can use the “boxed breathing” or “square breathing” technique and bring in their own square. They can also use “bubble breathing” or other guided breath work.
  • Distraction
    • Have your child bring in their favorite toy, blanket, comfort item, etc.
    • You can also offer them preferred media such as shows, clips, books, music, guided meditation. Let the child pick out their choice of appropriate media for distraction.
    • The child can bring a list of positive mantras with them to repeat during the procedure. They can also make up a silly phrase or word.
    • Grounding activities such as using their five senses (what they see, hear, feel, smell, taste)
  • Buzzy
    • The office has a Buzzy! Buzzy is a vibrating bee that can be used with an ice pack to help numb and distract. Please ask the nurse and/or doctor about this beforehand so we can have it prepared for you.
  • Fidgets
    • Our behavioral health clinician has fidgets, toys and stress balls that can be used during your shot or blood draw. If you are working with our behavioral health clinician, it might even be possible to have the doctor administer the vaccine in her office where the child might feel more comfortable.

Remember, we want to partner with you to make sure that the visit is as successful as possible for your child!