A mother writes:
We have decided to get allergy shots for my daughter who just turned 7. She is terrified of shots. Do you know of any literature that might help her through this or have any ideas about how to get her to cooperate?
–Voice from the Corn Belt
Thank you for writing. I am glad to know that this long-validated treatment is still holding its own out in the Midwest. Every day I see the immense improvements shots can make in the lives of patients of all ages. I’m glad your daughter is above the age of 5, which, as we write in our book, is really the age when shots start to prove their value and we don’t recommend them for younger than that.
While I am not aware of any literature that might help, I have developed several techniques in my career that do seem to help get kids acclimated to regular shots:
One is that with the permission of both sets of parents, I will try to get a new shot patient to first watch a veteran child take the shot and when there is no painful reaction, the new kid will try to be as brave as the old one. This works particularly well with boys, who don’t want to appear look like wusses, and several mothers have a knack for arriving at just the right time for this, although your daughter is obviously not subject to the macho factor. Another is that I have learned a repertoire of magic tricks. Kids actually like their appointments because they get to see me do these, although after awhile they just want to get it over with, since I’m not exactly Criss Angel or Harry Houdini.
An older technique that I always clear with Mom ahead of time is to douse my hand alcohol after swabbing the target area on the kid’s arm, and administer a sharp slap–not painful but just enough to elicit a startled reaction–and then give the shot. There’s some neurological dissonance that distracts from any pain from the shot. In general distraction is the best way to defuse the apprehension that is the worst part of these injections.
And by the way, when my father, a pediatrician, would bring his bag home from the office, we always knew we were going to get shots. My younger brothers would see him get out of the car carrying his bag and hide in the woods for hours.
For more on considering shots as treatment for your child, see this guest post by Dr. Harold Nelson