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Essential Parenting Tips for Kids with Needle Phobias

written by: Keren Perles • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 10/18/2010

Ava refuses the weekly blood tests that the doctor says she needs due to a medical condition. Matt screams whenever he needs to get injections at a checkup. What can their parents do? Read on for some fail-safe parenting tips for kids with needle phobias.

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    Using Explanations

    Some of the best parenting tips for kids with needle phobia involve making sure that your child understands what is about to happen. Misconceptions about a blood draw or a shot can lead children to be even more terrified of needles than they need to be. Older children may be interested in learning about the science behind how injections and blood draws work, and even slightly younger children can understand the general idea.

    For very young children, you should focus on the mechanics of how the process works. For example, you might explain that the rubber band will help the blood go into the needle and up into the tube. You can also use a doll or stuffed animal as a prop in your explanations, and you can allow your child to play "doctor" on the doll or on you so that he or she feels more in control of the situation.

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    Giving Choices

    You usually cannot give your child a choice about whether or not to have a shot or a blood draw, but children will feel more in control of the situation if you give them choices about exactly how it takes place. For example, you might ask your child whether they want to have the blood drawn standing, sitting on your lap, or lying down on the exam table. You can also give the choice of which arm to use, what song to sing during the process, and whether to squeeze your hand.

    One choice that you should definitely give, especially to children who have a history of needle phobia, is whether to have pain relief. There are two main types of anaesthetics that are used: a cream, or a spray. The cream lasts for several hours, but it needs to put on an hour or so before it begins to work. The spray works right away, but only lasts for several seconds. Both methods only numb the skin at the surface, but your child may still feel the injection as it is given.

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    Comforting Your Child

    Unless you have needle phobia as well, stay with your child during the process. You can hold your child on your lap if she wants, or you can just let her squeeze your hand while you talk to her. Either way, your presence will help to relax your child as much as possible.

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    Using Distraction

    Talk with your older child beforehand about which type of distraction they think will work the best. Some children can use focal points, others can recite times tables or listen to a story, and some may find relief by shouting very loudly. Warn the staff beforehand about what your child will be doing, and encourage your child to take control of the situation by using the distraction that he or she prefers.

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    Extreme Cases of Needle Phobia

    In extreme cases, these basic parenting tips for kids with needle phobia may not work. In these cases, the child might faint before the test can be completed. If this is the case, encourage your child to lie down during the process; then get them to tense the muscles in their face, trunk, arms, and legs; and imagine a time that they felt a very strong negative emotion. All of these techniques can help to raise your child's blood pressure and pulse, which will prevent another fainting spell.

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    References

    http://psy.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/44/3/253

    http://www.childrenfirst.nhs.uk/teens/health/conditions/n/needle_phobia.html

    http://www.gosh.nhs.uk/gosh_families/coming_to_gosh/fear_needles.html