is your child afraid of needles? Here’s how to prepare them for the vaccine – .

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Your child’s experience with the shots in their early years may affect their feelings and reactions to subsequent vaccinations. It is therefore important to reduce the risk of a negative experience.
But what can parents do to help prepare their child for the COVID-19 vaccine or other injections?
Fear or phobia?

Most children are afraid of needles. But for some children, this fear is more serious and can be defined as a phobia of needles.
Needle phobia is a very scary and distressing reaction to the presence or reaction to a needle, such as getting blood or being pricked. Anxiety and fear are out of proportion to the threat, and people will avoid needles as much as possible.

In severe cases, the level of anxiety caused by the mere sight of a needle can lead to feelings of dizziness, nausea, increased sweating, loss of consciousness, and fainting.

Almost one in five (19%) children aged 4 to 6 have a needle phobia, and this number drops to one in nine (11%) by the age of 10 to 11. Among adults, about 3.5-10% have a needle phobia.

Working as a nurse, I still remember Emma, ​​a five-year-old girl, who was petrified of needles. I remember his tiny face, the anger and fear, tears and screams just at the sight of a needle.

His growing fear was due to previous blood tests, injections, and other medical procedures. And it didn’t get any easier until she got some professional help in play therapy.

Reduce the risk of a negative experience

When making a vaccination appointment, remember to ask the nurse to allow more time to prepare.

When children come for the vaccine, most nurses expect the child to be worried and nervous, or very afraid of an injection.

Nurses can help by asking the child to tense and relax their muscles to avoid passing out. They may suggest taking a deep breath, holding it, and exhaling slowly. They can also ask the child to wiggle their toes to distract them.

If the child is clearly in distress – for example, yells, kicks and says he does not want it – parents can postpone the injection so that the child has an opportunity to develop coping strategies. ‘adaptation. This could potentially prevent a needle phobia from developing.

Parents are their child’s best advocates and know how to support them during their vaccinations.

How to prepare your child?

The first step is to decide when to give your child information about the vaccine. For children under five, a shorter time frame works better; for example, the same day.

For children five to six years old, you can tell them a day or two before; and during those seven years, up to a week before.

But if your child has a needle phobia, they may need a lot of help in a safe environment to express their thoughts and feelings and learn stress management strategies.

Get help from therapists

Qualified play therapists, child life therapists and child psychologists can help you. After establishing a trusting relationship with the therapist, medical play therapy sessions involve role-playing scenarios to desensitize the child to medical equipment.

It often starts with toy medical equipment and progresses to more authentic medical equipment.

The therapist provides information to the child by showing him how things work. The child can then develop mastery by injecting their doll or teddy bear, while the therapist provides clues for coping strategies and resilience.

Some children need one or two sessions, but those with a needle phobia may require up to ten or more sessions.

Therapists can also teach parents the skills to support their child during a needle or other medical procedure.

Using play therapy techniques at home

Introduce fake medical equipment toys during recess and notice if they are curious or avoid them.

If they’re curious and looking for more information, show them and tell them about their next vaccine and why they need it. You could say, for example, that it will prevent them and many other people from contracting the coronavirus, including their grandparents.

Children know from the media and school that COVID has forced people to stay home because it was making many people sick and they couldn’t breathe properly. You could explain that protection from the vaccine will help them stay in kindergarten or school and see their friends.

For the child who avoids playing with medical toys, distraction techniques can help. Consider introducing a new toy or object that can hold the child’s attention just before and during the injection. It could be sensory toys, I-Spy books, digital games or apps.

What tools do play therapists use?

For Emma, ​​after developing a therapeutic play relationship, I introduced and practiced the Magic Glove Technique. For kids with good imaginations, they can learn to relax and pretend they have an invisible magic glove that makes their arm – and themselves – feel calm and relaxed.

For other children, I used Buzzy, a mechanical bee-like vibrating device developed by American doctor and pain researcher Amy Baxter. It has a cold compress and the vibration inhibits the sensation of pain.

If your child has a negative experience during their vaccination and you would like to access professional help, ask your GP for suggestions from local play therapists or child life therapists or psychologists for children in your area.

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