If your child is afraid of needles, you can help

Nearly everyone – young and old alike – has at least some aversion to needles. When that fear becomes so intense that it prevents patients from receiving necessary immunizations, injections or blood tests, then it’s known as needle phobia. Looking further down the road in your child’s life, in extreme cases, needle phobia can even lead to missed opportunities, since immunizations or blood testing can be required for jobs, insurance, trips, school and marriage.
 
In many cases, any visit to a healthcare professional can be daunting enough to a youngster. Throw a needle into this mix of unknown people, new sights and unfamiliar sounds, and it can be quite unsettling for a child.
 
As a caring parent, you can help. Perhaps you yourself have your own fear of needles. Show empathy. You can let your child know that many people – kids and grown-ups too – feel the same way they do. Up to about 10 per cent of the population experiences needle phobia.
What causes needle phobia?

What causes needle phobia?

This fear of needles is believed to result from both genetics and experiences – nature and nurture. A large percentage of those with needle phobia also have relatives with the same condition. And past unpleasant needle experiences – their own or others’ – also play a part.
 
Needle phobia is characterized by heart-rate and blood-pressure increases – and then subsequent decreases in both. So always keep in mind that fainting is a possibility. You can get your child to lie down, and ensure her legs are elevated during the injection. Once the injection is complete, make sure that your child does not stand up too quickly.
What you can do to help

What you can do to help

An honest approach is a good way to deal with your child’s apprehension. Don’t tell your child the needle won’t hurt when it probably will, since this will undermine your credibility. You might also consider giving your child a greater sense of control. Give her choices. Does she want you in the room? Does she want more information? Part of that sense of control is knowledge or understanding. Whatever the reason for the injection, you can tell your child that this is for her benefit. Depending on the child’s age, this may range from the simplistic “We’re going to make a sore booboo right here so you can get better…” to the more complex “This injection is necessary because we need to cure/prevent/test (as the case may be) your…”
 
You might also want to ask your doctor or nurse about desensitizing the skin around the injection with ice or anesthetic ointment beforehand. Noisy toys or video games can also be a welcome distraction for the child before and during the injection. And be sure to encourage your child too. She’s a brave youngster, taking big steps by going to the doctor’s office and getting an injection.
 
And beyond the benefits of the injection itself, this also presents you with a great opportunity to teach a valuable life lesson – the concept of “short-term pain for long-term gain,” in this case, in its most literal sense. As always, consult your child’s physician for further information. A doctor can tell you about various strategies to address needle phobia, and refer you and your child to a psychologist if required.