Study suggests ways to calm children’s fears about shots

Study suggests ways to calm children’s fears about shots

For some children, getting a vaccination or other injection can be scary and painful. New research shows there are ways to overcome a child’s distress about needles.

Researchers at the University of South Australia found that needle anxiety can be reduced if nurses spend more time supporting children through the process. In other words, nurses should avoid the straight ahead, no-frills needle injection.

The researchers found that among children ages 8 to 12, two techniques were particularly effective. One focuses on divided attention, which draws the child’s focus and expectations away from the needle. The other approach is known as positive memory reframing. It aims to replace a child’s exaggerations about the pain of needles with a discussion about the positive aspects of their experience.

Children and parents in the study were placed into one of three groups. One group took a traditional approach to injections, while two others focused on the divided attention or memory reframing technique.

The divided attention technique involved a short distraction game in which a nurse randomly tapped the child’s arm above and below the injection site. That takes advantage of distraction as a potential pain-relief tactic. In the positive memory framing technique, the nurse reinforces the child’s behavior by telling them how brave they were or praising them for looking away or taking deep breaths.

The researchers ultimately determined that children exposed to the two techniques were less fearful about future injections and less anxious when discussing past injections.

These new approaches may take some of the sting — not to mention the tears — out of a necessary needle stick.

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