Hazel at no cost to families during the 2020-21 school year →
Healthy Habits

Take the stress out of your child’s vaccine visits

Use these quick tips to help your family cope with needle anxiety and make vaccine visits more pleasant.
5 minute read
July 20, 2021
Hazel Team
The editorial staff at Hazel are a diverse group of writers and professionals.

Leer en español

Between childhood vaccines, annual flu shots, and the COVID-19 vaccine, it’s likely that members of your family will need to get at least two shots this year. No one likes getting shots, but if your child or teen has a fear of needles, this event can be especially stressful. You can use these quick tips to help your family cope with needle anxiety and make vaccine visits more pleasant.  



1. Be honest and open about an upcoming shot.

Many children associate going to the doctor with getting a shot. So if your family is getting a vaccine at the doctor’s office, it’s likely they will ask about it. Although it may make them nervous to know about an upcoming shot, it’s better not to surprise them or mislead them. Be matter-of-fact and truthful about the appointment. Dishonesty about a shot can cause distrust and make future visits to the doctor harder on everyone. 

2. Give your child short notice. 

Consider your child’s level of maturity when you let them know about their appointment. An older child or teen can learn about the appointment a day or two before the visit. This will give them time to prepare their schedule, but not too much time to think about the shot. A younger child may have a better experience with less notice. On the day of the appointment, be direct and let your child know that they will get a shot. Try not to make the shot the focus of the conversation. Instead, concentrate on what you will do after the appointment.

3. Avoid guarantees and promises.

Don’t promise the shot won’t hurt. Both you and your child know how a shot feels. Let them know it will feel a pinch for a few seconds, and then it will be over. If you don’t anticipate any shots during your child’s appointment, don’t promise the visit will be shot-free. Each visit with your doctor is an opportunity to catch up on missed doses, and some vaccine recommendations can change between appointments. It’s best to avoid making a promise you may not be able to keep by letting them know they may get a shot. If they don’t end up with a shot during the visit, it’s a pleasant surprise. 


4. Use age-appropriate language to answer questions.

Sometimes, children are upset because they do not understand why shots are necessary. Explain to your child that no one likes getting shots, but vaccines can protect your family from serious or even fatal illnesses. If they ask about pain, be honest and tell your child the shot will likely feel like a pinch, and they may feel sore afterward. Reassure them that the injection is quick and describe the process using words like pressure, poking, squeezing, or pinch rather than sting, hurt, or pain. 



5. Set a good example.

No parent wants their child to feel afraid or experience pain (even for one second). Understandably, you may be anxious during the appointment as well. If you act nervous, your child may pick up on your behavior and become more afraid. Try to be warm and supportive, but remain calm and unapologetic. 


6. Allow your child to have some control.

If you feel your child is ready, you can let them have some agency throughout the appointment. If they are getting the shot at the doctor’s office or local pharmacy, allow them to pick which arm they get their shot, the band-aid they will use, and if they want to countdown to the shot. If you are going to a doctor’s visit, you can work with your provider to make sure children can choose where to sit and if they would prefer to sit upright or lay down. 


7. Comfort your child through the process.
Younger children may want to sit in your lap, and older children may feel comforted by holding and squeezing your hand. While they are getting a shot, praise them for being brave, but don’t scold them if they cry or panic. Speak to them in a soft voice and make eye contact. 


8. Distract your child while they are getting the shot.

Seeing the needle can be the scariest part for many children. It can be helpful to have your child look in the other direction and distract them with quiet activities that will keep their mind off the vaccine. These activities can include:

  • Telling a joke or riddle
  • Singing a favorite song
  • Looking around the room and finding three things you never noticed before 
  • Reciting a poem
  • Talking about a favorite memory
  • Discussing what they want to do later in the day

Some parents also choose to bring a book or their child’s favorite toy and let them hold the item during the shot. 


9. Recommend coughing or breathing through the shot. 

Some people find that coughing right before the shot and once during it can help with the pain. (Just be sure to cover your mouth!) Consider teaching your child the “cough trick.” 


Breathing exercises during the shot can also be helpful for pain and anxiety. Help your child try this breathing technique:

  • Take a deep breath through your nose for four seconds.
  • Hold your breath for a count of four.
  • Blow the air out of your mouth for four seconds. 
  • Repeat this pattern. 
  • Count to four for each breath


10. Praise your child for getting the shot.
Thank your child for being brave (even if they cried), and mention how happy you are that they were able to get the vaccine. Positive reinforcement can make future trips to the doctor smoother and less scary. Although it may be tempting to apologize, it’s best not to make the situation anyone’s fault. A few simple things you can say after your child gets a shot:

  • “You did a great job!”
  • “I’m so glad we were able to get you vaccinated.”
  • “What fun thing should we do now?”
  • “You were so brave! I’m impressed!”


11. Reward your child.

You can try to do something fun with your child after the appointment.  Many families get ice cream, spend extra time at the playground, or watch a movie together after vaccines. These small activities can help make the memory of the day a bit happier. 


When you schedule your child’s appointment, be sure to ask your doctor about your child’s vaccine schedule, as recommendations can change. You can also ask about medications or numbing treatments they may recommend to manage pain during the shot and for any side effects after the vaccine.  

Healthy students. Healthy schools.

See how Hazel Health can keep your students healthy and ready to learn
Parents: Let us know you are interested in Hazel for your school
We will reach out to your school district to let them know that parents at their school are interested in Hazel Health services.
Learn how Hazel can improve access to care for K-12 students
A member of our team will be in touch to talk about how we partner with schools and school nurses to expand access to health services - whether students are learning in school or at home.
COVID-19: Learn how Hazel can improve access to care for K-12 students
Hazel services are offered with $0 patient responsibility for all students through the 2020-21 school year for at-home or in-school doctor visits, due to these unprecedented times. Get in touch with us to learn more.
Let us know you are interested in adding Hazel to your insurance provider network
Parent Story
A father was concerned when his son was showing COVID-19 symptoms. His school uses Hazel, so he was able to contact a Hazel doctor from home.

The Hazel provider recommended he get a COVID-19 test and shared resources to help find a testing center in their area. The father was eager to help his son feel better and appreciated being able to quickly get answers and advice.
Nurse Story
A student came into the nurse's office with a sprained ankle. After icing her foot, she still was in pain, so the nurse called Hazel. Thankfully, her family had provided consent for over-the-counter pain relief because she was able to take some medicine and return to class feeling better.

After the visit, the Hazel provider reached out to the school nurse to check on the student’s injury. The nurse shared that the student’s ankle was improving, and she appreciated the follow-up.
Parent Story
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but no appointments were available. She didn’t want her son to run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

The provider was able to send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that her son would have the medicine he needed. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.
Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Student Story
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. She was sad about COVID-19 impacting her senior year, and she was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and she felt she didn't have the right support at home. After discussing her feelings, a Hazel doctor connected her with resources that she described as “life-changing.” She was very grateful and shared that she didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
Student Story
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.