Needle phobia – we can help

Does your child have a fear of needles or immunisations?

You’re not alone. Two out of every three children have a fear of needles. For many of these children, the fear may actually get worse as they get older. One out of ten adults have a fear of needles so significant that it impacts their willingness to engage with medical care such as blood tests, vaccinations etc.

We have a few tips on how you can help support your child and make it easier for them.

Before the vaccination

Help your child feel more in control.

It’s important to prepare your child for what they might experience we all do better when we know what to expect! Giving your child some choice and control over the situation (where you can) will help everyone feel a little less anxious.

Let them choose what toy to bring from home, whether to sit on your lap or hold your hand, which arm to have the injection in, whether to watch the injection or do something else, what to do after, or what to watch whilst waiting.

It can also help to remind your child that the process won’t take long if they sit still and remind them that you’ll be with them the whole time.

Tell them why it’s needed

Explain to them why it’s needed. Use language they might understand;

Medicine to keep you healthy

Invisible soldiers or an invisible shield like a superhero to protect them, their family and friends from nasty bugs

Make them feel heard

Needle phobia is real, and it is okay for your child to be afraid. Let them know you understand how they feel and its ok. Do not criticise your child, support and encourage them throughout the process.

It is okay for your child to be scared or to cry. Everyone has different coping strategies, praise your child for being present and going ahead with the procedure.

Every child will respond differently to vaccination. An individual approach is recommended for each child. Not everything works for every child.

Try to make vaccination a positive experience for your child.

For children who are afraid of vaccinations, it is best to see someone who is experienced in childhood vaccination. Our experienced nurses Denise and Bridget are highly skilled and experienced with needle phobias and can help in many ways.

Plan your visit

When you book and arrive for your visit, let reception know that your child may be anxious or has a needle phobia.

Ask to speak with the nurse they are booked with before the appointment to discuss vaccine side effects and discuss a plan if required.

Try and dress them with a short sleeve and minimal layers. This ensures they are ready straight away and often less bargaining.

If your child has been anxious thinking about it, try and book an early morning appointment.

If it’s not going to plan and your child becomes too distressed, we may recommend taking a break – go for a walk or sit in the waiting room for a while or play outside at Little Pears or rescheduling to another day.

During the vaccination

Distraction, relaxation and other techniques can reduce distress and pain after vaccination in young children.

For young children having an immunisation injection, you could try:

Distracting your child with toys

Play music or a favourite video

Read a favourite book or sing a song with your child

Giving your child a favourite blanket or soft toy to cuddle

Changing your childs position or moving around with your child immediately after immunisation

Encourage older children to pretend to blow away the pain using a windmill toy or bubbles

Keep calm and positive. Children look to their parents and carers to judge whether they’re in danger. They’re less likely to worry if you show them there’s nothing to worry about. Use positive words of encouragement and support to help your child to feel safe and in control.

Praise or reward them when it’s all over. Provide a treat or do a special activity together to make sure the experience ends on a positive note. What this looks like is up to you.

Ways we can help to reduce the pain

If all of this doesn’t work, there are some other tricks we can try

Local anaesthetic creams

Numbing cream can be used to numb the vaccination area on your childs skin. They can block the transmission of pain signals to the brain. You can get this over the counter from your pharmacist without a prescription. Depending on the cream, it must be applied 30 minutes to 1 hour before vaccination. Aim for the shoulder muscle about 3-5 cms down from the top of the arm. If in doubt, apply to the upper third of the arm.

Disrupt pain pathways

Did you know that our brain is actually responsible for the pain we feel? When our body feels a possible threat, it sends a warning signal along our nerves to the brain. Using vibration or different sensations along the skin can create a traffic jam or confusion to stop the signals reaching our brain and lessens the pain we feel.

Rubbing the skin with a cotton ball for a minute or two before the procedure can have a numbing effect.

Cold packs and vibration devices (the buzzy bee) can help to numb the site and help to confuse the bodys own nerves and distracts attention away from the pain, this helps to dull or eliminate injection pain.

At Little Pears, we have a buzzy bee device with helps to numb the site and provide the vibration just above where the vaccine is given; it stops the signal, changes the sensation and prevents the pain.

If your child has a needle phobia, we recommend booking in with one of our nurses at our Little Pears site so we can try all of our tricks to make it a more positive experience for all of you.