Needles can be frightening for children (and even some adults) but there are ways to help your child cope, and even to make the process easier. Whether your child needs an IV, to have blood taken or to get an immunization, we have some tips to get you and your little one through it.
If getting an IV or giving blood, your child will have a much easier time if she is hydrated. If the needle is happening with short notice, pick up one of your child’s favourite drinks, like a coveted soft drink or milkshake and let her enjoy her treat before and during the needle. If time isn’t an issue, load up on fluids in the hours before the appointment.
Much like hydrating, warming the body aids in plumping up veins to make it easier to draw blood or place an IV. Put an extra sweater on, crank the heat in the car on the way to the appointment and/or ask for a warm blanket when you get there. You can even treat your little one to a hot chocolate for extra warmth.
If your child is having blood drawn or getting an IV and he is known to have small or difficult to find veins, these creams may not be an appropriate choice because they do alter the opacity of the skin. However, if this isn’t a problem or if the upcoming needle is for a vaccination, the creams may be just what you need. Ask where the injection site will be and apply the cream or patch an hour before the procedure.
Stay Ahead of the Pain
Since many immunizations are administered into the muscle, the result can be aching in the hours or days to follow. Give your child a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen an hour before the shot, and continue at regular dosage intervals for the first day. If they complain of aches despite the medication, rotate between ice packs and warm compresses. While it may seem like overkill for a simple vaccination, you are showing your child that you acknowledge her pain and giving her something to focus on rather than the actual pain.
Keep it to Yourself
Giving your child notice of the upcoming needle may seem like the kind thing to do, but it often results in a severely anxious child. While I do not advocate springing it on them with no information, waiting until the moments before can prevent anxiety and stress for both you and your child.
Lead by Example
Take your child with you when you are getting your flu shot or having blood drawn and show him how it is done. Don’t tell him it doesn’t hurt because that’s not necessarily true, but show him how you stay calm and get it done quickly and easily.
Distracting your child during the actual injection is a fantastic way to get through it easily. Allow him to play a game on your phone; play with a fidget toy; eat a sweet treat; or tell a joke while the nurse does her thing. It will be done before he knows it!
A little incentive never hurts. Promise your child a trip to the ice cream shop; a dollar store toy; a movie; or a couple of hours of one on one time with mom after the needle. Try to leave off disclaimers like “no crying” so your child doesn’t feel more anxiety if he sheds a tear. Most doctors will give stickers or suckers to kids after their appointments too.
Keeping your child healthy is your number one job and sometimes that means we have to put them through some pain. Needles are a regular part of life and we can help our children accept that by easing them through the process.