Experts Advice Parents On Preparing Children With Fear of Needles for COVID-19 Vaccine

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Some parents might be looking forward to the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for kids under 11 years old as it will mean being one step closer to regaining their normal life. However, parents with children with fear of needles will need to overcome a few hurdles to make this vaccination less traumatic.

Dr. Nia Heard-Garris of The New York Times said that fear of needles is technically called trypanophobia and it is more common among children under 10 years old. However, there are effective ways for parents to help their children shake off the nerves and become comfortable with getting vaccinated.

The doctor said that the first most logical step is to device a plan and figure out the logistics. If the child is getting the COVID-19 vaccine at her pediatrician's office then it might help ease off the anxiety because she is already familiar with the doctor and the clinic.

If her pediatrician is not offering the service, then parents might consider a school-based vaccination. It will also help to pick a schedule where the child is "likely to be stressed."

Read Also: Parents Said Walgreens Pharmacy Injected COVID-19 Vaccine, Not Flu Shots, to Their Kids

Talk to the Child

Psychologist Mary Alvord said that parents need to talk to their child about getting the vaccine and they should raise the fact that they need to face their fear of needles. Alvord said that it's important to build the child's trust to do away with the anxiety. The parent should stress that the person inoculating them is a "very kind person," and if necessary, the parent could also do breathing practices with the child.

The expert said that children with fear of needles are mostly afraid of the pain. She advised parents to never tell their kids the shot will not hurt -- because it will.

"It needs to be said to kids that no one likes to get shots," Alvord said. "There is a little bit of discomfort with it, but there is so much benefit."

Both Heard-Garrisa and Alvord recommended reading children's books about vaccination so they will understand its importance to their health. Stories will also help the kids become familiar with the experience. Role playing with a doctor's kit is a good practice tool as well.

For older children, Heard-Garrisa suggested listing a "fear ladder," where the child ranks vaccine scenarios according to their difficulty. The parents can talk it over the child and explore a plan of action for each scenario.

Focus on the Positive

Child education specialists Kelly Foy and Pat McLarney recommend preparing coping kits for the kids that may include fidget spinners or sensory toys. Older children might be comforted with stress balls or a playlist of their music as they wait in line during their vaccine appointment.

The experts said that breathing and mindfulness technics are also helpful for any person with fear of needles, regardless of their age. The family should practice these breathing technics in the weeks leading up to their scheduled vaccination.

Foy and McLarney also reminded parents to consider giving a reward like ice creams, movie day or anything positive after the jab. They might want to talk about what exciting things they can do once they are vaccinated, such as playdates with their friends or visits to the their grandparents, so they will be able to associate nice thoughts with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Related Article: U.S. Readies 28 Million COVID-19 Vaccines for Kids to be Administered as Soon as FDA Gives Authorization

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