You’re at your doctor’s office for an appointment, and your doctor says you will be getting a vaccine shot today. How do you feel?

If the first thing you feel is fear, you’re not alone. Over 60 % of children are scared of needles. That means that, in a group of 10 children, six or more feel afraid when they are getting a shot.

Why are so many children scared of needles? Dr. Amy Baxter, who specializes in pain management, explains why “needle-phobia” is so widespread.

Her interest in this issue started with her family. “When ⅛my son3/8 had to get his 4-year-old vaccines, the situation was very traumatic. He was ambushed by the nurse, had four injections on the same day, and threw up when we left the doctor’s office,” says Dr. Baxter. This situation inspired her research on needle fear.

How many shots do you remember getting? Can you count them on one hand, or does it take two? According to Dr. Baxter’s research, the number of vaccines kids receive now is much higher than it was 30 years ago. Seven of these vaccines are given when they are 4 to 6 years of age, when kids can remember getting the vaccine. While these shots are important to receive because they can protect us from getting sick, the high number of them can be scary and can cause a fear of needles even into adulthood. “How can you trick the 4-year-old inside you to make this work?” Dr. Baxter said.

Before going to the doctor to get a shot, Dr. Baxter recommends making a “plan that addresses pain, fear, and your focus.” Doing so ahead of time can make the experience a lot less stressful.

Here are some steps you can take to make you feel more comfortable getting a shot:

1. Consider why getting this vaccine is important. Before you get your shot, take some time to think about why you are getting it. Will it protect you from getting sick? Will it help protect your family and friends from getting sick? Immunizing yourself keeps everyone around you safe.

2. Bring a friend or family member for distractions. Having someone to talk to throughout the appointment can help relieve stress and make the entire process less scary. Bring a friend or family member who understands your fear and also knows why this shot is important to receive.

3. Use some sort of pain-relieving technology. While not everyone experiences it when receiving a shot, it can sometimes be helpful to have something to relieve any pain. For example, a “BUZZY shot blocker” by Paincare Labs, uses vibration and cold ice to relieve the pain. Another option is the “Bionix shot blocker,” which distracts from the needle by making the skin around it feel a small amount of pressure. According to Dr. Baxter, numbing creams are not very effective when getting vaccines. If you feel lightheaded or dizzy at any time during the appointment, she notes that tensing stomach muscles can help push blood to the brain to help you feel less faint.

4. Perform a specific task while the shot is happening. Distracting the brain is just as important to relieve some of the pain. Any sort of small problem which requires concentration is effective. Dr. Baxter says to find any sort of sentence nearby and “count how many letters have circles in them” to distract you from the needle.

Milla Dobrovolska-Ivanova is an iGeneration Youth reporter living in Wexford, Pennsylvania.

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