Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Don't fear the needle

My son and I are at his annual wellness checkup. He giggles when the doctor looks in his ears, and he shows her his muscles. He asks questions about how the doctor is able control his reflexes and what his heartbeat sounds like. At the end of the visit, he reminds her that he isn't scheduled to get any immunizations until he turns 10. He waits for her to confirm this statement.

When she leaves the room, I tell him that just because he isn't getting immunizations any time soon, it doesn't guarantee a lack of needles in his life. He makes a face at me when I bring up potential flu shots or blood being drawn and make my point about needles being a part of health.

I wouldn't say that I have a fear of needles, but whenever I have to get my blood drawn, I look away. I am fine with the rest of the process - the strap, the tapping to get a vein to come up, even the slight pain of the needle going into my arm. I just don't want to watch it.

When my son gets shots of any kind, I do my best to treat it like it is no big deal. I try to distract him but I am honest, too: I say that it will hurt for a second, and then it will be fine. I hate seeing his little flinch as he gets poked by a needle and the immediate tear reaction. I feel very sorry for the nurse who has to give children their shots, and I thank her for helping to keep my son healthy. (She looks like she could use a vacation.)

My intent is to not encourage my son to develop a fear of needles, because our children's reaction to shots is based on how we parents act about getting them. A study published in the journal Pain has found that if you act fearful around your child getting a shot then they will pick up on that. If you talk about shots as a positive experience, then they will be less fearful overall. (On a non-related note, why is there a medical journal entirely devoted to pain?!?)

Do you have a fear of needles? Tell me in the comments.

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