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How to help a child with extreme needle anxiety get the Covid shot


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My daughter, who is usually The World's Most Confident Twelve-Year-Old, desperately wants to get the Covid vaccine. She is very pro-vaccine, and can't wait to be fully vaccinated so she can be her usual extroverted self. But she has EXTREME needle anxiety! She went to get her shot over the weekend, and after two hours of anxiety and wearing out the nerves of every single volunteer at the site, she still couldn't face it and she came back home crying her heart out. Distraction didn't help. Huge bribery incentives didn't help.

Any ideas? I'm wondering if a one-time only anti-anxiety pill would be appropriate.

Thanks!

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I’m not sure I can be much help. I do have needle phobic kids, to the point that they’ve cried, including the 19yo EMT who had to get an IV from PEOPLE SHE KNOWS in the hospital she serves. But they always go through with it right through the tears.

The nurse who did my 14yo’s first dose told him to let his whole arm hang down - no cradling it or resting it on the table or chair arm, and let it just hang there “dead”. No muscle tensing.  He’s been told about muscle tensing before, but this time he went full-on dead and SWEARS he didn’t feel a thing.  He went in for shot #2 with almost no anxiety ahead of time.  I think she made a convert!

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Oh, wow.

poor girl.

im really sorry!

Did you try numbing cream on the injection site?

Id get some numbing cream a couple days ahead, and practice with it. Like have her pinch herself or stick her fingernail into her bicep area...then apply the cream and wait appropriate time. Have her pinch and stick her fingernail again and compare the feelings before and after cream

If it was my kid, I’d probably try to dial down all talk of the vaccine for several weeks. But you said she is motivated so that might not help.

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Could you talk to the pediatrician about an anxiety med that she can take before the vaccine? Something like Ativan? It may calm her down enough to be able to handle getting the shot - my aunt does this for shots and bloodwork and it has helped her go from being paralyzed with anxiety to being nervous but able to manage the anxiety.

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Posted (edited)

I was worried this was going to be the case for my younger son but he did ok.  Both of my sons had issues with needles when they were younger.  

I would let it ride for a few weeks.  Talk to her about other times she did something hard or painful and what helps. She’s done hard things before and maybe she can apply that to trying again down the line a bit.  

My son was terrified about the anesthesia for his wisdom teeth extraction.  He’s autistic and I was worried he would melt down or flail around.  The oral surgeon prescribed him a dose of lithium to help but I’m not sure if that would be something I’d do just for a vaccine.  

Back when needles where a huge problem for my sons, I found that sucking on a cold drink and looking away helped.  I would literally stop and get a ridiculous Starbucks concoction on the way to visits with shots or blood draws.  

Edited by LucyStoner
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So, I have a (neurodiverse) child who wouldn't allow shots. When it was necessary, her nurses simply called in reinforcements and held her still. I can't remember if this was still necessary at 12-- I think by then she was beginning to be able to cope. This wouldn't be my choice, barring real necessity.

If the kid *wanted* the shot, but couldn't manage it, I think I might try desensitization. Can she look at a photo of a needle?  A real one? Hold one? Watch a video of someone else getting a shot?

I'd start wherever she can tolerate without stress on that scale, and give praise, reinforcements, hugs, M&Ms, ice cream-- whatever her currency is-- for repeated exposure. When she says she's ready, step up to the next level. Ultimately maybe she could watch others at a clinic, from a distance. Let her control her degree of exposure, and don't expose her to anything that actually causes fear: keep it below that level. Let her take her time.

Anti-anxiety meds are another approach, and could work alongside desensitization.

Good luck!

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Yes, I agree with above - look at how phobias are treated, by slow desensitisation. A photo, a toy needle, a real needle etc. If you could get a nurse or doctor involved that would be helpful, just holding a needle, putting it against her arm etc. I would google, there'd be information on how to do it, I'd say. 

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There was never a choice here.  I just had the kid sit on my lap, and I held his arms to his sides.  Once he was 11 or 12, though, I had his father do it because he had gotten too strong for me.  Then, about a year later, he was fine.

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Hugs to your dd.

I know nothing about anxiety meds, but I think that it might be worth a call to the pediatrician to find out.

We ended up using a distraction.

My dd13 was really hesitant to get the shot (just like she is about every other shot).  I ended up sitting in front of her, facing her, so that my knees were touching hers.  I held her face in my hands so that she couldn't turn to look at the needle.  I thought that it might not happen until I remembered dd13's love for jokes and riddles.  I asked her to tell the nurse her best joke.  She gave me a blank stare.  I told her to tell her worst joke (the nurse giggled).  And then (fortunately for all of us) she relaxed and (unfortunately for all of us) she proceeded to tell us the "wooden leg named Smith" joke from Mary Poppins.  She's already planning for what jokes she's going to tell when she goes back to get her second shot.

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Do you have a drive up clinic available? Anticipatory anxiety is often the worse part with a phobia like this. It may be that if you can just drive up and say, okay, in two minutes we’ll be driving away and you’ll be done and then just do it while you talk to her and distract her. The more anticipation, the worse it is. A lollipop or other candy she can have immediately to get blood sugar up (and distract) can be helpful after if part of her problem is feeling faint after. 

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My 12 year old has autism and pretty severe medical anxiety.

When he got his first dose 3 weeks ago, there was crying and puking...but I was prepared for that. It was all made 100 time worse because even though I had called the pharmacy and spoken to the pharmacist ahead of time (about 20 minutes before we got there so it would be fresh in her mind), she seemed to brush off my concern. I had told her that we needed to be in and out as fast as humanly possible because waiting and anticipation makes his anxiety sky rocket. Also, I told her that she just needed to do it. DS will start to hyperventilate and gag, but he can and will keep himself still (he is even more anxious about shots hurting more if he moves), and he will be absolutely fine 2 minutes after the shot if I get him up and away and thinking about something else entirely. But instead the pharmacist dithered - she tried to give him a pep talk and kept asking it he was okay. NO, he was not okay, and he became less okay every minute she delayed. It would have been so much less traumatic if we just sat him down, prepped the arm, and had the shot over with before he thought about it too much.

The day after shot #1 I called the pediatrician and asked for a sedative. DS takes a high does of daily anti-anxiety meds, and the doctor prescribed Ativan to help with shot #2. I told her that I was particularly interested in trying it for DS because it was a good, controlled opportunity to test its efficacy. The day could easily come when he needs emergency stitches or an IV, and that is not when I want to be trialing different seditives to see which will keep him the calmest. As he enters the teen and young adult years, I would far prefer finding a pharmacological method to help him cope rather than relying on distraction or brute force to get procedures done.

I'm glad we tried the Ativan...because it didn't help at all. His second shot was this afternoon, and if anything he was more anxious and wound up than last time. He has a med check with the pediatrician over the summer and I am going to discuss this further with her, because I still think that finding a workable alternative is a good safety goal. I'm also completely writing off getting him shots at pharmacies in the future. The pediatricians' office is not currently an option for the covid vaccine, and DS wanted to be vaccinated, so I made do with the pharmacy and tried to prepare them to help him as best they could. I won't be doing that again. The pediatricians' office has so much more experience with anxious kids. In the future, if the peds' office isn't a choice, I might try the county health department for DS...anywhere less chaotic where we could get slightly more personalized service.

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Posted (edited)

My son had a serious needle phobia and had to learn to deal with it due to a chronic illness that required regular blood draws. While he has figured out how to manage the procedures, he does have a vasovagal response to blood draws, stitches and injections. It usually happens within a couple of minutes after the end of the procedure or injection.

Can you call your local hospital and ask to speak to a Child Life Specialist (CCLP)? They will have really helpful ideas for you. They are literally professionals at this kind of thing. If your local hospital doesn't have one, keep going to the next closest hospital until you find one.

I'd make sure your child goes to a kid-friendly location, if possible. Go where you can make an appointment for a specific time, too. That will lesson the wait time, which would only allow the anxiety to grow.  I personally wouldn't do a pharmacy or drive up clinic as you wouldn't be able to manage timing well.

This is one tip sheet I found doing a quick google search  - you can look for more like this from people who work with this every day.

https://www.mainstreetpediatrics.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/needle-phobia.pdf

Edited by TechWife
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So, thoughts.. in no particular order:

1. Is it that she can't quite bring herself to say "yes" and make it thappen? Would it help if you discussed that YOU would take the responsibility, and "make" her do it? That way she isn't choosing the needle, it's just happening. With phobias, that can make a difference sometimes. You can often tolerate something but not be able to bring yourself to choose it. 

2. I hate needles, but I can promise it was the least painful shot I've ever had. EVER. And almost everyone says the same thing. 

3. Explain it is a TINY needle, much smaller than most, and only  a TINY amount of vaccine, so it really doesn't hurt like some shots

4. Explain she only has to be be brave for 1 second. It will be over that fast.

5. Practice relaxing her arm and breathing. Partcularly, blowing out a breath like blowing out a birthday candle, but nice and slow through pursed lips. It helps a ton. Heck, if breathing helps labor pain, it can help anything! It's how I get through novacaine injections, which I HATE. I breathe and count. 

6. "Close your eyes and think of something happy". That's from daniel tiger (heck, pull up the episode and laugh together watching it!).  I think the episode may even be about a shot, come to think of it. 

7. If all else fails, numbing cream. call her doctor and ask for a script for EMLA cream and apply it before hand (google...I want to say 2 hours?) all over where they might stick her and cover with saran wrap so it absorbs into the skin, not her shirt sleeve. Works great for my little ones getting blood work. 

8. Think of herself as saving someone's life. 

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5 hours ago, Carrie12345 said:

I’m not sure I can be much help. I do have needle phobic kids, to the point that they’ve cried, including the 19yo EMT who had to get an IV from PEOPLE SHE KNOWS in the hospital she serves. But they always go through with it right through the tears.

The nurse who did my 14yo’s first dose told him to let his whole arm hang down - no cradling it or resting it on the table or chair arm, and let it just hang there “dead”. No muscle tensing.  He’s been told about muscle tensing before, but this time he went full-on dead and SWEARS he didn’t feel a thing.  He went in for shot #2 with almost no anxiety ahead of time.  I think she made a convert!

Thanks for sharing, @Carrie12345.  They tried the "dead arm" technique, but she wouldn't even let them get close.  We'll try that again next time!

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5 hours ago, pinball said:

Oh, wow.

poor girl.

im really sorry!

Did you try numbing cream on the injection site?

Id get some numbing cream a couple days ahead, and practice with it. Like have her pinch herself or stick her fingernail into her bicep area...then apply the cream and wait appropriate time. Have her pinch and stick her fingernail again and compare the feelings before and after cream

If it was my kid, I’d probably try to dial down all talk of the vaccine for several weeks. But you said she is motivated so that might not help.

Hi @pinball.  We'll try this!  If nothing else, it will get her used to having stuff happen around her arm.  Thank you!

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5 hours ago, AmandaVT said:

Could you talk to the pediatrician about an anxiety med that she can take before the vaccine? Something like Ativan? It may calm her down enough to be able to handle getting the shot - my aunt does this for shots and bloodwork and it has helped her go from being paralyzed with anxiety to being nervous but able to manage the anxiety.

Thank you, @AmandaVT.  I think that some kind of anxiety med is going to be necessary.  I'll ask the pediatrician.  My daughter may be like your aunt!

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5 hours ago, LucyStoner said:

I was worried this was going to be the case for my younger son but he did ok.  Both of my sons had issues with needles when they were younger.  

I would let it ride for a few weeks.  Talk to her about other times she did something hard or painful and what helps. She’s done hard things before and maybe she can apply that to trying again down the line a bit.  

My son was terrified about the anesthesia for his wisdom teeth extraction.  He’s autistic and I was worried he would melt down or flail around.  The oral surgeon prescribed him a dose of lithium to help but I’m not sure if that would be something I’d do just for a vaccine.  

Back when needles where a huge problem for my sons, I found that sucking on a cold drink and looking away helped.  I would literally stop and get a ridiculous Starbucks concoction on the way to visits with shots or blood draws.  

She'd love to try a ridiculous Starbucks concoction, or maybe a huge shake from the ice cream place.  It's worth a try.  Thank you, @LucyStoner!

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Just now, Quarter Note said:

Thanks for sharing, @Carrie12345.  They tried the "dead arm" technique, but she wouldn't even let them get close.  We'll try that again next time!

Have you talked through how the anxiety response works? She seems old enough that she could understand and it would be helpful. It was very helpful for my previously very needle phobic child. Once she understood what was happening in her body to cause that feeling, and gave herself permission to just feel the anxiety and accept it as a chemical feeling that would pass, it helped a lot. She had a few shots after that where she had the same Vasovagal reaction, but with each one, she got better about just knowing that was going to happen and it was okay and her anxiety the next time was a little lower. She had a flu shot at a drive through last winter and she didn’t have a vasovagal reaction to that. When it came time for the Covid shot this year, she was so excited to get it, she actually didn’t have any issue at all.

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5 hours ago, Innisfree said:

So, I have a (neurodiverse) child who wouldn't allow shots. When it was necessary, her nurses simply called in reinforcements and held her still. I can't remember if this was still necessary at 12-- I think by then she was beginning to be able to cope. This wouldn't be my choice, barring real necessity.

If the kid *wanted* the shot, but couldn't manage it, I think I might try desensitization. Can she look at a photo of a needle?  A real one? Hold one? Watch a video of someone else getting a shot?

I'd start wherever she can tolerate without stress on that scale, and give praise, reinforcements, hugs, M&Ms, ice cream-- whatever her currency is-- for repeated exposure. When she says she's ready, step up to the next level. Ultimately maybe she could watch others at a clinic, from a distance. Let her control her degree of exposure, and don't expose her to anything that actually causes fear: keep it below that level. Let her take her time.

Anti-anxiety meds are another approach, and could work alongside desensitization.

Good luck!

 

5 hours ago, bookbard said:

Yes, I agree with above - look at how phobias are treated, by slow desensitisation. A photo, a toy needle, a real needle etc. If you could get a nurse or doctor involved that would be helpful, just holding a needle, putting it against her arm etc. I would google, there'd be information on how to do it, I'd say. 

@Innisfree and @bookbard, this idea is brilliant!  We'll start trying to desensitize her.  She's watched her younger brother get flu shots for years (she always gets the mist), but maybe we can just slowly move toward getting that needle closer to her.  Thank you both so much!

 

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5 hours ago, happi duck said:

(hugs)

One of my anxiety meds is an antihistamine.  Does she ever take anything OTC like that that can make her a bit drowsy for her jab?

Please tell her that the Hive Aunties are cheering her on!!

She's never taken an antihistamine, but that might be a really easy thing to test out.  

Your words are so kind, @happi duck!  Thank you!

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4 hours ago, EKS said:

There was never a choice here.  I just had the kid sit on my lap, and I held his arms to his sides.  Once he was 11 or 12, though, I had his father do it because he had gotten too strong for me.  Then, about a year later, he was fine.

Hi @EKS.  Her father couldn't even hold her.  We tried.  

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4 hours ago, Junie said:

Hugs to your dd.

I know nothing about anxiety meds, but I think that it might be worth a call to the pediatrician to find out.

We ended up using a distraction.

My dd13 was really hesitant to get the shot (just like she is about every other shot).  I ended up sitting in front of her, facing her, so that my knees were touching hers.  I held her face in my hands so that she couldn't turn to look at the needle.  I thought that it might not happen until I remembered dd13's love for jokes and riddles.  I asked her to tell the nurse her best joke.  She gave me a blank stare.  I told her to tell her worst joke (the nurse giggled).  And then (fortunately for all of us) she relaxed and (unfortunately for all of us) she proceeded to tell us the "wooden leg named Smith" joke from Mary Poppins.  She's already planning for what jokes she's going to tell when she goes back to get her second shot.

Hi @Junie.  Thanks for your kind words.  We tried every distraction we could think of.  She was beyond that.  But she loves the "wooden leg named Smith" joke, too.  Maybe that will work later.  So glad that it worked for your daughter!

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5 hours ago, Quarter Note said:

 

Any ideas? I'm wondering if a one-time only anti-anxiety pill would be appropriate.

Thanks!

Before a couple of my surgeries was given anti-anxiety meds to take when I went to bed the night before, when I woke up that morning, then when I arrived at the surgicenter.

When I had to have some oral surgery involving lasering my gums the dentist sent in a nice lady who was kind of a cross between my dear sweet Granny and a drug dealer who said, "OK, honey.  Let's talk about some options.  First, do you want to be conscious for it? " I did.  "Have you had Valium before?"  I said yes, but it was like taking a baby aspirin for a migraine.  "We'll take care of that." and she gave me some serious anti-anxiety meds. 

When my middle daughter was 11 and had to have a brain scan in a narrow  scanning device her pediatric neurologist suggested she take some Benadryl to mellow her out because the imaging process took a long time. Middle daughter doesn't have any anxiety about anything, but hwy not? She's never had a scan that took half an hour (if I remember correctly.)

Youngest was given a sedative when she was a toddler and needed bloodwork done. When she was 2 she needed dental work done and was given anesthesia because the pediatric dentist said, "You can't reason with a 2 year old-we don't even try." 

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4 hours ago, KSera said:

Do you have a drive up clinic available? Anticipatory anxiety is often the worse part with a phobia like this. It may be that if you can just drive up and say, okay, in two minutes we’ll be driving away and you’ll be done and then just do it while you talk to her and distract her. The more anticipation, the worse it is. A lollipop or other candy she can have immediately to get blood sugar up (and distract) can be helpful after if part of her problem is feeling faint after. 

Hi @KSera.  I haven't heard of any drive up clinics in this area (we live in a small town in the mountains, so we don't have a lot of options), but I agree that the less time she has to anticipate the jab, the easier it might be.  I'll make sure we have a lollipop, too.

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4 hours ago, wendyroo said:

My 12 year old has autism and pretty severe medical anxiety.

When he got his first dose 3 weeks ago, there was crying and puking...but I was prepared for that. It was all made 100 time worse because even though I had called the pharmacy and spoken to the pharmacist ahead of time (about 20 minutes before we got there so it would be fresh in her mind), she seemed to brush off my concern. I had told her that we needed to be in and out as fast as humanly possible because waiting and anticipation makes his anxiety sky rocket. Also, I told her that she just needed to do it. DS will start to hyperventilate and gag, but he can and will keep himself still (he is even more anxious about shots hurting more if he moves), and he will be absolutely fine 2 minutes after the shot if I get him up and away and thinking about something else entirely. But instead the pharmacist dithered - she tried to give him a pep talk and kept asking it he was okay. NO, he was not okay, and he became less okay every minute she delayed. It would have been so much less traumatic if we just sat him down, prepped the arm, and had the shot over with before he thought about it too much.

The day after shot #1 I called the pediatrician and asked for a sedative. DS takes a high does of daily anti-anxiety meds, and the doctor prescribed Ativan to help with shot #2. I told her that I was particularly interested in trying it for DS because it was a good, controlled opportunity to test its efficacy. The day could easily come when he needs emergency stitches or an IV, and that is not when I want to be trialing different seditives to see which will keep him the calmest. As he enters the teen and young adult years, I would far prefer finding a pharmacological method to help him cope rather than relying on distraction or brute force to get procedures done.

I'm glad we tried the Ativan...because it didn't help at all. His second shot was this afternoon, and if anything he was more anxious and wound up than last time. He has a med check with the pediatrician over the summer and I am going to discuss this further with her, because I still think that finding a workable alternative is a good safety goal. I'm also completely writing off getting him shots at pharmacies in the future. The pediatricians' office is not currently an option for the covid vaccine, and DS wanted to be vaccinated, so I made do with the pharmacy and tried to prepare them to help him as best they could. I won't be doing that again. The pediatricians' office has so much more experience with anxious kids. In the future, if the peds' office isn't a choice, I might try the county health department for DS...anywhere less chaotic where we could get slightly more personalized service.

@wendyroo, I really appreciate you sharing what happened with your son.  Whenever we get that shot scheduled again, I will remember your advice to just get it over with!  

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4 minutes ago, Quarter Note said:

Hi @Junie.  Thanks for your kind words.  We tried every distraction we could think of.  She was beyond that.  But she loves the "wooden leg named Smith" joke, too.  Maybe that will work later.  So glad that it worked for your daughter!

Yes, I'm so thankful that it worked.  We had to wait for a while* before she could get her shot and I was really concerned that it was going to make her more anxious.  I think that she would have done even better if we could have gotten her in right away.

The reason we had to wait for a while is because our insurance company had her birthdate wrong.  Apparently it has been wrong her entire life and no one ever said anything.  The pharmacy finally got everything to process, but it took longer than it should have.  When we contacted the insurance company later, we found out that they had three out of six birthdates wrong!  How does this even happen?

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3 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

If she is afraid of the pain of the needle going in , it might help for her to know that for many people (I can’t promise 100%) the Covid vaccine was painless going in. 

Hi @Jean in Newcastle.  She knows it doesn't hurt.  There's something much deeper going on.  But I'll reminder her about this.  Thank you!

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2 hours ago, TechWife said:

My son had a serious needle phobia and had to learn to deal with it due to a chronic illness that required regular blood draws. While he has figured out how to manage the procedures, he does have a vasovagal response to blood draws, stitches and injections. It usually happens within a couple of minutes after the end of the procedure or injection.

Can you call your local hospital and ask to speak to a Child Life Specialist (CCLP)? They will have really helpful ideas for you. They are literally professionals at this kind of thing. If your local hospital doesn't have one, keep going to the next closest hospital until you find one.

I'd make sure your child goes to a kid-friendly location, if possible. Go where you can make an appointment for a specific time, too. That will lesson the wait time, which would only allow the anxiety to grow.  I personally wouldn't do a pharmacy or drive up clinic as you wouldn't be able to manage timing well.

This is one tip sheet I found doing a quick google search  - you can look for more like this from people who work with this every day.

https://www.mainstreetpediatrics.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/needle-phobia.pdf

Hi @TechWife.  I've never heard of a Child Life Specialist, but I'll call the nearest hospital and see if they have one.  Thank you!

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1 hour ago, ktgrok said:

So, thoughts.. in no particular order:

1. Is it that she can't quite bring herself to say "yes" and make it thappen? Would it help if you discussed that YOU would take the responsibility, and "make" her do it? That way she isn't choosing the needle, it's just happening. With phobias, that can make a difference sometimes. You can often tolerate something but not be able to bring yourself to choose it. 

2. I hate needles, but I can promise it was the least painful shot I've ever had. EVER. And almost everyone says the same thing. 

3. Explain it is a TINY needle, much smaller than most, and only  a TINY amount of vaccine, so it really doesn't hurt like some shots

4. Explain she only has to be be brave for 1 second. It will be over that fast.

5. Practice relaxing her arm and breathing. Partcularly, blowing out a breath like blowing out a birthday candle, but nice and slow through pursed lips. It helps a ton. Heck, if breathing helps labor pain, it can help anything! It's how I get through novacaine injections, which I HATE. I breathe and count. 

6. "Close your eyes and think of something happy". That's from daniel tiger (heck, pull up the episode and laugh together watching it!).  I think the episode may even be about a shot, come to think of it. 

7. If all else fails, numbing cream. call her doctor and ask for a script for EMLA cream and apply it before hand (google...I want to say 2 hours?) all over where they might stick her and cover with saran wrap so it absorbs into the skin, not her shirt sleeve. Works great for my little ones getting blood work. 

8. Think of herself as saving someone's life. 

Hi @ktgrok.  Thank you for writing this all out.  She's very motivated to get the shot, but there's just no getting that needle anywhere near her!  

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20 minutes ago, KSera said:

Have you talked through how the anxiety response works? She seems old enough that she could understand and it would be helpful. It was very helpful for my previously very needle phobic child. Once she understood what was happening in her body to cause that feeling, and gave herself permission to just feel the anxiety and accept it as a chemical feeling that would pass, it helped a lot. She had a few shots after that where she had the same Vasovagal reaction, but with each one, she got better about just knowing that was going to happen and it was okay and her anxiety the next time was a little lower. She had a flu shot at a drive through last winter and she didn’t have a vasovagal reaction to that. When it came time for the Covid shot this year, she was so excited to get it, she actually didn’t have any issue at all.

Thank you, @KSera.  This is something that we haven't tried!  I'll look into the anxiety response and try explaining it to her.  It might help!

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14 minutes ago, Homeschool Mom in AZ said:

Before a couple of my surgeries was given anti-anxiety meds to take when I went to bed the night before, when I woke up that morning, then when I arrived at the surgicenter.

When I had to have some oral surgery involving lasering my gums the dentist sent in a nice lady who was kind of a cross between my dear sweet Granny and a drug dealer who said, "OK, honey.  Let's talk about some options.  First, do you want to be conscious for it? " I did.  "Have you had Valium before?"  I said yes, but it was like taking a baby aspirin for a migraine.  "We'll take care of that." and she gave me some serious anti-anxiety meds. 

When my middle daughter was 11 and had to have a brain scan in a narrow  scanning device her pediatric neurologist suggested she take some Benadryl to mellow her out because the imaging process took a long time. Middle daughter doesn't have any anxiety about anything, but hwy not? She's never had a scan that took half an hour (if I remember correctly.)

Youngest was given a sedative when she was a toddler and needed bloodwork done. When she was 2 she needed dental work done and was given anesthesia because the pediatric dentist said, "You can't reason with a 2 year old-we don't even try." 

Thank you, @Homeschool Mom in AZ.  Good to know that that the anti-anxiety meds work!  

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11 minutes ago, Junie said:

Yes, I'm so thankful that it worked.  We had to wait for a while* before she could get her shot and I was really concerned that it was going to make her more anxious.  I think that she would have done even better if we could have gotten her in right away.

The reason we had to wait for a while is because our insurance company had her birthdate wrong.  Apparently it has been wrong her entire life and no one ever said anything.  The pharmacy finally got everything to process, but it took longer than it should have.  When we contacted the insurance company later, we found out that they had three out of six birthdates wrong!  How does this even happen?

Oh, how frustrating!

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I know this is hard from personal experience, but I definitely think you need more help and more intensive strategies.

It’s worth seeing what setting options you have, like a doctor’s office instead of a pharmacy, or a mass event vs private. Also positioning, like lying down. It doesn’t seem like this is something your daughter has a lot of rational control over, but I would ask if she herself has any ideas as to what would make it easier. I haven’t found extensive conversation really helps. I had some limited success with practicing, and I’ve found it helps to get there early, practice deep breathing, soothing thoughts, letting the anxiety peak and then tackling it when she has calmed down. Assuming that happens, which it may not. Also telling the staff when you get there that this is an issue. I’d definitely call your doctor’s office and a child life specialist for further advice.

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23 minutes ago, Quarter Note said:

Thank you, @KSera.  This is something that we haven't tried!  I'll look into the anxiety response and try explaining it to her.  It might help!

I really like the way Claire Weekes explains and helps people with anxiety issues. This site has a good explanation: https://www.anxietycoach.com/anxietytrick.html

You can get some podcasts of Claire Weekes explaining this as well. She has a calming voice, too. 

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1 hour ago, Quarter Note said:

Hi @TechWife.  I've never heard of a Child Life Specialist, but I'll call the nearest hospital and see if they have one.  Thank you!

They are a wonderful resource! They explain procedures to the children in a developmentally appropriate way, teach coping techniques and accompany children for different procedures to provide play distractions when needed & appropriate. A children’s hospital will definitely have them on staff, other hospitals that serve a significant pediatric population will as well. 
 

This is a video that does a good job explaining what they do.

 

 

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OP, I hope some of the strategies work out. One thing I would not do is tell her it's painless, or even that most people think it's painless. If she has a difficult experience that could make future shots even harder. (FWIW, I had both experiences. My 1st shot was painless. Had I not been watching, I wouldn't have known I had gotten a shot. But the second shot? Hands down the most painful shot I've ever experienced. It was worse than all the other shots I've had in my life combined...want to jump out of my chair and scream bloody murder bad. Thankfully, shots are short.)

I hope you are able to help her manage this phobia and anxiety!

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We gave ds .5 mg Xanax before the first shot. He's not as bad with the needle anxiety as he was, but he was extremely Covid-phobic and hadn't been out of the house in over a year. That did the trick, and he did amazingly well. I realized for his second shot that I didn't give him any meds at all and had a brief moment of panic, but dh said he did great and didn't need anything. Ds is 22, and a big guy, so .25 or even half of one should be plenty if your doctor would consider something like that. They can write a prescription for one - it's quite common for these situations or MRI fear, which I have. Ativan never worked for ds. Bribery, etc. never worked with him either - if anything it added more anxiety by highlighting the event as a big deal. When he was younger, his pediatrician used to get him into some kind of martial arts hold to give him shots. He used to run out of her house, lock himself in the bathroom, etc. It was a nightmare!! My niece is in college and didn't get hers because of needle phobia, but she had Covid and should have some immunity for a while. Hugs to your daughter! 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/7/2021 at 10:12 PM, KSera said:

I really like the way Claire Weekes explains and helps people with anxiety issues. This site has a good explanation: https://www.anxietycoach.com/anxietytrick.html

You can get some podcasts of Claire Weekes explaining this as well. She has a calming voice, too. 

KSera, thank you so much for posting this link.  My daughter and I read it together.  It's hard to know what got through to her, but I bookmarked it for myself!

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On 6/7/2021 at 11:50 PM, TechWife said:

They are a wonderful resource! They explain procedures to the children in a developmentally appropriate way, teach coping techniques and accompany children for different procedures to provide play distractions when needed & appropriate. A children’s hospital will definitely have them on staff, other hospitals that serve a significant pediatric population will as well. 
 

This is a video that does a good job explaining what they do.

 

 

TechWife, this video brought tears to my eyes!  The nearest Child Life Specialist to us is at a hospital about 2 hours away, but it's really good to know about this resource.  If I were 30 years younger, I think I would have pursued a job like this! 

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On 6/8/2021 at 5:21 AM, barnwife said:

OP, I hope some of the strategies work out. One thing I would not do is tell her it's painless, or even that most people think it's painless. If she has a difficult experience that could make future shots even harder. (FWIW, I had both experiences. My 1st shot was painless. Had I not been watching, I wouldn't have known I had gotten a shot. But the second shot? Hands down the most painful shot I've ever experienced. It was worse than all the other shots I've had in my life combined...want to jump out of my chair and scream bloody murder bad. Thankfully, shots are short.)

I hope you are able to help her manage this phobia and anxiety!

You're right, barnwife.  I've had blood draws that have been extremely painful!  It can be traumatic.

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1 minute ago, Quarter Note said:

KSera, thank you so much for posting this link.  My daughter and I read it together.  It's hard to know what got through to her, but I bookmarked it for myself!

I’m so glad it was helpful! Understanding the response and that not fighting it is the key to taming it was SO helpful to me when I had it crop up quite suddenly life. This audio book from Claire Weekes is excellent and quite short: https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0009U6XRU/ref=dbs_a_w_dp_b0009u6xru

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Posted (edited)

Hi everyone.  I'm sorry I took so long to reply to all of these.  Here's an update:

My state started a very generous limited-time financial incentive for getting the Covid shot.  We suggested it to our daughter, who decided that she would try again.  So we immediately got an appointment for the next day.  The World's Most Confident Twelve-Year-Old still refused any sort of anti-anxiety medicine, but we tried all of the other suggestions you all offered.  She went to bed dreaming of what she would do with the money.

Next day, Daddy took the day off work, we all drove an hour away to Big City.  She was so excited to get the shot!  Well, you can imagine what happened:  When we got there, it took half an hour to get her out of the car.  It took another fifteen minutes to convince her to go through registration.  She sat in the chair for about 30 seconds before bolting.  ALL of the volunteers there were as wonderful as could be, but she still couldn't bring herself to go through with it.  😪  

I'll update again when there's something new.  Hopefully they'll either come up with the vaccine as a mist, or we'll just continue our Covid-safe practices until she can get over it.  

Thank you all for your encouragement!

Edited by Quarter Note
typo
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I'm sorry, @Quarter Note. I love how understanding you are with your daughter. Anxiety is so hard.

Crazy thought: I wonder if there is anywhere they could give her nitrous oxide, if she'd accept that? Maybe at a hospital? Here are some articles about it:

https://www.minnpost.com/mental-health-addiction/2017/05/nitrous-oxide-helps-ease-young-patients-anxiety-during-painful-medic/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29753606/

 

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2 hours ago, Quarter Note said:

I'll update again when there's something new.  Hopefully they'll either come up with the vaccine as a mist, or we'll just continue our Covid-safe practices until she can get over it.  

There’s both a mist and a needless injection both in the works. They are expected in 2022. I know other people disagreed, but I still think a drive up without a line might be easiest if she decides she wants to do it. That’s a lot of waiting around that she had to do, which is super unhelpful in that condition. Plus, a car doesn’t allow bolting. If the drive up was prepared for her, it could be drive up, one second injection, and it’s done. Poor girl, though. I’m sure it feels miserable for her. And each bolting reinforces the fear, so really it’s better not to try it again until everyone is 100% committed to making sure it happens.

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