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Take the Fear Out of Baby Injections

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Injections hurt. Needles can be scary. Even for adults. How much more for a little child? I remember stories about the bigger the man, the faster he crashes down when he sees a needle. My mom who was a health worker loved to tell stories about how she reduced the toughest of guys to unconsciousness by just showing her injection set. I had this friend who was so scared of needles that he always asked to have shots in his bum where he can’t look and be blindfolded during blood drawing. Scientists believe that fear of needles starts at childhood, a fear that may carry through adulthood.

Kids get several shots against childhood diseases in the first 3 years of their lives. These injections cause pain and anxiety and if not handled properly and can become traumatic. If during those years, they develop a phobia against needles, they will run into problems with needed medical care later in life.

Strategies to Ease the Anxiety of Injections

  • Prepare them well in advance. I always told my kids (twin boys) what is going to happen. Not telling them before hand will catch them by surprise.

  • Be honest. I am always honest and tell them that it may hurt a bit. Experts advise parents and doctors to tell truth but not to express too much concern so as to avoid unnecessary anxiety.

  • Provide distractions. When they were babies, I always bring a stuff toys to cuddle during vaccination sessions. My boys are getting a little bit too big for that now but our pediatrician is wonderful. He has all these little gadgets such a nifty ball pen-torch light all-in-one.

  • Give them the choice to look or look away. When they were big enough, I always asked my kids whether they want to look or not. I think this gives them a comforting feeling of having a say in the matter. In all cases, they’d rather not look. However, one of the upsides of being twins is to be able to look at what’s going on with your twin.

  • Give rewards. Okay, some people will call it bribery. I call it giving incentives. If they have to go through the ordeal, they deserve a little goody at the end. Nothing big, really. Our former pediatrician used to give gummy bears. Our current one doesn’t but they may get an ice lolly from mommy afterwards. That way, they wouldn’t associate needles only with pain but also with the treat afterwards.

A USA Today report explained that health professionals also have strategies similar to the ones listed above. However in addition, doctors and nurses have other tricks up their sleeve, as listed below.

  • Give anesthetics. There are topical creams and gels used as numbing agents to reduce injection pain. The drawbacks to this strategy are the cost, and the inefficiency as most of these agents should be applied 30 minutes before the injection. However, local anesthetics are warranted in children with a severe case of needle fear.

  • Be quick and smooth. Medical professionals should learn to give injections quickly and less painfully. Our pediatrician does it so fast that it’s over before my kids realized what happened.

  • The coughing trick. Doctors offer distractions from toys to films. A doctor who published his strategy in the Journal Pediatrics used coughing as distraction. He asked his little patients to cough before and after the injection because coughing provides a mental distraction and a sensation that competes with the pain.

  • Give sugar solutions. A study in 2008 reported that giving babies a weak sugar solution (25% sucrose) to drink before injection can help ease injection pains in babies.

What about you? What are your tricks in taking away the “ouch” of injections?


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