Distractions help children overcome needle nervousness

Distractions can be a powerful ally for the guardian of a child about to get poked with a needle for school shots, flu vaccinations and blood tests, says Dr. Deborah Wiebe, professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

“Tell a child to count backward as fast as they can,” she says. “Or have him or her blow soap bubbles.”

Adults, however, have to be careful of one distraction in particular that could turn negative: displaying fear themselves.

“For children, having parents there for support and distraction usually helps,” Dr. Wiebe says. “That holds true as long as the adults are not modeling fear.”

Negative experiences with needles or shots can lead to needle phobia, which is a much less common and more severe problem. Needle phobia can require a more systematic intervention by a behavioral specialist.

“Luckily, most kids won’t ever reach this phase of needle fear,” Dr. Wiebe says.

Visit www.utsouthwestern.org/mentalhealth to learn more about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for mental health.

Media Contact: LaKisha Ladson

Return to March 2010 News Tips

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