Ways to take fear out of jabs for children

Nurses and a needle phobia expert explain how to prepare youngsters for injections. By Lisa Salmon.
Ways to take fear out of jabs for children

Many parents dread taking their kids for routine jabs because so many of them are terrified of needles. Picture: Alamy/PA

KARL Rollison, author of The Needle Phobia Handbook, and nursing experts give their tips on how to deal with a needle-phobic child…

1. Remain calm yourself

Children can pick up negative energy from other children and adults, explains Rollison, and this can affect them.

“If you’re a parent who’s phobic about needles, you can pass that on, because phobias can be inherited,” warns Rollison. “Kids will know if you’re scared, so don’t make a big deal out of the situation, however you might feel inside.”

2. Get someone else to take them

If you’ve got a phobia about needles, then you shouldn’t be the person taking the child for a jab, because they’ll pick up on your fear, warns Rollison.

“If a family or friend has a calming influence on the child, then let them take them for the injection,” he suggests.

3. Explain what will happen

Talk to your child about what will happen in a simple, calm, and age-appropriate way, advises Foulds.

4. Make sure they’re comfortable

Let children wear their favourite clothes and hold their best toy when they go for their jab, or let them play games on a tablet/phone, or wear headphones with their favourite music playing, advises Rollison.

5. Apply numbing cream

The nurse giving the jab may have some numbing cream to reduce the sensation in the child’s arm, or Rollison suggests buying some over-the-counter child-friendly numbing cream.

6. Distract them

“A distraction technique can be something like getting them to tap their foot while counting out loud, or tapping them on the opposite arm while you give the jab,” suggests Lisa Elliott, deputy director of nursing at the Royal College of Nursing . “Anything to keep them from focusing on the needle helps.”

7. Try bribery

The key to a drama-free jab is distraction or bribery.

“You can give a small kid ice-cream, get them to look at their iPad, and just jab the needle in then without them realising,” says Rollinson. “You can bribe them by saying the jab is only going to take a couple of seconds, and if they have it, you’ll get them something nice – so you’re projecting them into the future after this little speed bump.”

8. Get the child to sit up

“Lying down can trigger anxiety and make them feel vulnerable, and it’ll be harder to distract them too,” Rollinson advises.

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