Kids and Shots: Cut the Tears Out of Going for a Checkup

Just as kids learn not to touch a hot stove a second time, memory of the pain of previous injections can make kids want to avoid the needle like the plague. To prepare children for getting a shot, parents should set an example by remaining calm. Kids pick up on the temperament of their parents. If your child is a toddler, this is the most effective way to help them. Despite your best efforts a toddler who has received shots at a previous visit will often remain upset throughout the visit, before and after shots.

For the child over three years of age, parents are advised not to notify their children of the injection too far in advance. When kids have too much time to think about it they may build up dread. If children ask, tell the truth. Otherwise, the morning of the appointment is soon enough. In preparing kids, parents should reassure them that they’ll be there to hold their hands. Even so, kids may fear the needle regardless of the pain, and so distractions are encouraged. You can practice breathing techniques listed below at home with your child. You can also try this at home if you attempt to remove a splinter or are going to clean a wound.

Breathing techniques help relax your child and change fear into action. It also changes their heart rate, breathing rate, perspiration, and blood pressure.


· Exhale first to empty your lungs.
· Toddlers and younger children depend heavily on their parents’ involvement. Breathe together so your child can hear, see, and copy you.
· This age group may use short, shallow breaths with the image of a train better. Have you child breath in 2 short, shallow breaths through his nose and mouth. Then when he breathes out have him say “toot” like a train. It will take focus for him to continue this breathing pattern
· You can also practice with blowing bubbles. Challenge the child: “See how far you can blow this bubble.” or “How many twin bubbles can you make while the nurse washes your skin clean?”
· For slightly older kids you can ask them to “Exhale, as if you’re blowing out candles.”
· Children age 6 and older can usually regulate breathing by themselves.
· Older children: Explain that deep breathing gives you something to focus on, helps the body to relax, and makes the procedure easier and faster.

Practicing these skills at home can make it easier for kids to deal with “owies” whether they happen at home or in the office.