I don’t have to get a shot, myself, to pass out. I can just look at someone else getting poked and I’m flat on the floor. The same goes for giving blood. I remember the time when I just glanced at another donor and I was out cold. Guess I don’t have to tell you I didn’t give blood that day.
For most of my life I’ve struggled with what’s called needle phobia, better known as a fear of needles. When I was a child, both my parents had to strap my hands down as the doctor poked me for needed vaccines and injections. When I grew into a teenager, I fainted whenever I got a shot.
Then, when I took my own children to the doctor, I did it again. I wasn’t even the one getting poked, but I passed out. Years later, I put off going for medical exams simply because I hated giving blood. But when I entered my 50s, I bit the bullet and just did it, even though I would have rather eaten dirt than get a shot. But, much to my surprise, I discovered that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Besides the needles being much thinner, and less painful than those when I was child in the 50s, I discovered a little secret. You just don’t look.
Just the sight of a needle, to some children, leaves both them and their parents paralyzed. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you have small children, now is the time to help them overcome their fear. You just may save their life as countless people have died because they failed to see a doctor, getting simple blood tests. Studies show that about 10% of our population suffers from needle phobia.
If you’re a parent who’d like to make doctor visits more pleasant, try these suggestions on your child’s next visit.
*First of all, be honest. Don’t lie and say it doesn’t hurt. On the other hand, explain it’s just a little prick. Smile as you tell them, and make sure you’ve overcome your own fear of needles or they’ll pick it up in your body language. You don’t want to transfer your fears to them. Tell them how, thanks to modern medicine, needles are designed ultrathin these days, and not like the uncomfortable thick ones used years ago when their grandparents were children. Also, be honest about where you are going. I’ll never forget when I was five years old and hysterical because I had to go to the doctor for a sore throat. To get me in the car my grandfather lied to me, telling me we were going to the zoo. Then, when I got there, I was hysterical, ripping off the white paper from the examining table. Somehow, I think this traumatic childhood experience played a role in my fear of needles.
*Ask your child’s doctor about using topical creams. Or, ask your pharmacist about creams that numb the surface before an injection is given, so the child doesn’t feel the needle. It’s a bit messy, but will help your child overcome their fear.
*Take books and favorite toys along when you go to the doctor. Doing this will help to calm your child down, as well help him refocus on something pleasant. If your child is a baby or toddler, you may want to hold him in your arms, reading his favorite picture book, as the doctor performs the injection. Better yet, sing your child’s favorite song or lullaby. There’s nothing like music to arrest a fear. And, of course, don’t forget that favorite blankie or teddy bear as a comfort tool. If your child is older, suggest taking along a paperback book or a portable game.
*Tell you child that he doesn’t have to look. If he’s like me, just closing your eyes and thinking of something pleasant and saying a prayer, helps take away the trauma.
Most of all, reassure your child that the doctor is his friend, not his enemy. Explain how it’s necessary to sometimes get a shot to fight off a disease or protect him from future ones. Then, after the doctor’s visit, make the day special by stopping by McDonalds or a favorite hangout where he can relax. If you help him overcome his fear of needles now, he’ll be a healthier adult and live longer.