News | Published October 31, 2018

Ask the pediatrician: Fear of needles

Hi Dr. Collison,

My five-year-old son is scared of needles. I know he needs his flu shot this season, but he gets so worked up that I don’t want to put him through it again. Do you have any tips to help alleviate his fear?

It’s not uncommon for children to be afraid of needles. Here are a few things you can do before, during and after your trip to the doctor:

Before: First, don’t promise your son that he won’t get a shot. If you lie to your son, his trust in you will be broken. Next, don’t joke about your son getting a shot as a punishment. Doctors and nurses are there to help your child and keep them healthy. Lastly, let your son talk about his fear and listen to him. Validate his fear instead of brushing it off.

During: Let your son’s doctor know that he is afraid of needles. Doctors often deal with kids who are afraid of needles and will most likely have a couple tricks up their sleeves to help your son relax. You can bring your son’s favorite book or toy to the appointment or let him listen to music to help distract him while he is getting a shot. Hold your son’s hand and do your best to remain calm. If you look upset, your son will easily pick up on your anxiety.

After: Be sure to praise and comfort your son after the shot is over. Try to plan a fun activity for after the appointment. This could be a trip to the park or even a stop for a special treat like ice cream.

If your son continues to experience extreme anxiety before getting a shot, talk with his doctor about potentially using numbing creams or anxiety medicines before his appointment. The most important thing to remember is that your child’s fear shouldn’t be used as a reason to skip the flu shot. The flu shot is your child’s best defense against the flu.