How Can I Help My Child With Their Fear of Shots?

Medically Reviewed on 2/25/2022

6 ways to help your child with their fear of shots

child with fear of shots
Learn six ways to help pacify your child’s fear of shots and persuade them to take the vaccine.

Getting shots can make a child fearful. At least two-thirds of children and one-fourth of adults fear needles. So, if you have a child dreading a shot, you are not alone.

Your role is to pacify the child and persuade them to take the shot. Rather than scaring them, assure them about the vaccine and why it needs to be taken.

  1. Be honest: Explain to your kids the need for vaccination and how they should feel after the vaccination. Assure them the vaccine feels like a small pinch and wouldn’t hurt for long.
  2. Never scare them and use kind words: Words should be monitored. Do not scare them with words like “shots” or “pain.” Instead use words such as “pressure,” “poke,” “vaccine” or “pinch.” Pacify them by saying “Let’s go to the doctor to get the medicine to stay healthy” rather than “We have to go to the doctor and get a shot.”
  3. Keep a positive attitude and appearance: Your attitude and appearance are something children take cues from. Hence, remain calm and positive during their vaccination. A tensed and grimaced face can evoke anxiety in kids. Parental behavior during vaccinations has been shown to determine the pain and anxiety a child will experience.
  4. Divert their attention during the shot: An amazing trick to combat the fear of shots is to divert their attention from the fear and anxiety. For infants and toddlers, you can distract them with songs, stories, or toys. For older children, you can show them videos, tell them stories, or ask them to listen to music during the shots.
  5. Assure them rewards: Praise them for being cooperative or offer them their favorite healthy snacks or food items. Other ways to reward your child include:
    • Take them to the playground or their favorite park, buy them a sticker, or stop at the ice cream shop for a sweet treat for cooperating through the procedure.
    • Help your child form a positive memory associated with that day.
  6. Use vibration: Applying vibration near the injection site before the injection can help minimize pain. You can use a vibrating massager or other vibrating and cooling tools to help ease the pain.

While you use these methods to help them create a positive memory with their shot, ensure that you do not threaten or scold them for screaming or crying.

5 coping strategies for older children

Coping strategies can be beneficial for children to combat their fear of shots. However, these strategies need practice, and it is advisable to train them before the procedure.

These coping strategies can be practiced daily to face a child’s challenges and fears and understand their value.

  1. Squeezing.
    • Squeezing a ball before and during the shot can help cope with the fear.
    • You can try the following squeezing method:
      • Before the shot, ask the child to squeeze a ball and hold it for five seconds.
      • Repeat squeezing three to five times.
      • If squeezing helps, you can try tightening and releasing other body parts.
      • For example, ask your child to close their eyes tight and scrunch their face for five seconds, and then, relax.
      • Start with the face and move down to the toes.
  2. Deep breathing.
    • You can practice deep breathing by the following method:
      • Take three to five deep breaths.
      • Take a deep breath through your nose, then release the breath through your mouth.
      • You can put the paper flower into your nose and pretend as if you are breathing them. Next, pretend to blow away the paper flower.
      • You can blow a pinwheel or bubbles as practice too.
      • Do this before, during, and after the shot.
  3. Imagery.
    • Imagining a particular situation or scenario can be beneficial to combat the fear of shots.
    • Try the following steps to feel relaxed before a shot:
      • Before the shot, picture a favorite place or activity.
      • Imagine what you see, hear, smell, and feel when you are in that place or doing that activity.
      • Try to remain in this soothing place during the shot.
  4. Music.
    • Sing or listen to soft music.
  5. Numbing cream and sprays.
    • Ask your doctor for any numbing cream and sprays to apply after getting shots. They may take 30 minutes to show the effects.

4 coping strategies for infants or toddlers

Infants need coping strategies to combat any stressful situation.

The following ways can help you calm a fussy baby:

  1. Swaddle: Cover your baby in a blanket, leaving one leg out for the shot.
  2. Breastfeeding or pacifiers: Breastfeed your infant or give them a pacifier to suck.
  3. Provide warmth: Tightly hold your child close to your skin to feel your warmth.
  4. Shushing sound or singing: Sing or shush gently in your baby's ear.


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Medically Reviewed on 2/25/2022
Image Source: iStock Images

Fields L. Helping Kids Who Fear Vaccines. WebMD.

Cleveland Clinic. Helping Your Child Get Over Shot Anxiety.

Children's Hospital Colorado. 7 Tips to Help Your Child Overcome a Fear of Shots.

Thomas J, Becker DK. Taking Fear and Pain Out of Needles—for Your Child and You. American Academy of Pediatrics.