31 answers

Getting Shots-what Age Do They Stop Screaming and Flailing?

My 5 year old just had 4 shots last week. I told her about them ahead of time thinking it would help but as soon as the nurses walked in she started screaming and flailing and the nurses made me hold her top half down really hard, while they held down her legs. It was completely awful and I always cry afterward once my daughter is out of eyesight. I asked her dad to take her next year because i can't stand doing it anymore. Maybe she will act better in front of him? Do you have any tips or suggestions to make it go smoother? Do you tell them they are getting shots ahead of time or right when they do it? What age does it get better?

When it was all over my daughter said she hates those kind of doctors and is allergic to them. She also said her legs hurt really bad where they were holding her down. There has got to be a better way!

What can I do next?

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Hi J.! I had to laugh at Amy's response. She's right! I was one of those adults who cried and shook while getting shots. Now I am much more dignified- I simply sweat and pass out. Ha-ha! Seriously, she may never get over it.
For two weeks now I have had to give my 19 month old daughter injections 4-6 times daily. She was diagnosed with diabetes. I don't know if I will ever get over the stress of having to poke her with a needle. She cries and cries every time. Like you, I wish there was an easier way.
Good luck to you!

Same experience about a month ago...I used to think there was nothing worse than watching a newborn get shots - as hard as that is, it isn't any easier with a five year old.

My baby girl is the same way but she is an infant right now. Wondering if this will get worse as time goes on. Interested to know what you find out.

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I have one word for you - BRIBERY!!! We used to have a horrible time with our daughter (now 13) with shots and needles - and as she has chronic and severe medical problems, there are more needles in her life than in any twenty "healthy" kids (we are down to an average of two a week now). Here is what we do...for "big" sticks (painful shots, etc.) we would pick out something she really wanted (did not have to be expensive - a book, small toy, special treat) and bring it with us. The deal was that if she behaved and cooperated (She could cry, but no screaming, flailing or fighting.), she could have the reward. If not, it went back to the store. With smaller pokes, like routine blood draws, etc., she earned money - a quarter to a dollar, depending on the poke. She could save the money for a special treat or toy, but if she fought a nurse and kicked or hit or made their job really hard, she had to use some of her saved money for a card or small apology gift. It took a few times, but it has worked fantastically for us. Consistency is key - if she does not behave, you have to follow through and not give the reward or actually have her follow through with the apology, even when it means it upsets her again.

The hardest part as a parent is watching your child in pain, whether from the needle or the panic, but you have to remember that you are being a good parent, and you are doing what is best for them. Better a needle stick and a few tears now than a debilitating or fatal illness later. Best of luck to you!

1 mom found this helpful

Some kids never outgrow being terrified of shots... I have a 26 year old sister that still refuses needles unless she has absolutely no other option and then she still cries.

Anyway, you could pick and choose which vaccines you feel are neccessary and only get those done. (For this child and any future ones....) I know a lot of people who forgo the chicken pox and flu vaccines as well as a few others. For school, all you have to do is ask them for the form and sign off on the rest. (Nobody likes to tell you that part. I know our school district just threatens that children won't be let in the front door without ALL shots completed. But if you ask for the form then kids with NO shots can go to school......)

So, if you just dig in and do some research (YOU NEED TO FIND SOME BIPARTISIN VIEWS SO YOU CAN MAKE AN INFORMED DECISION. All the info from the docs is one- sided so you will have to look in other places.) you can decide what is best for your family.

check out 909shot.com for some more indepth info


Shots are scarey at any age. My son is 7 and got a booster this summer and cried and scooted out of the office on his bottom because he could no longer walk on that leg. I remember being 10 or 12 and limping out after a shot in my leg. Each person handles it differently- so there is no age to honestly give you. I try not to tell my son that he is going to have a shot before hand- the amount of time he has anxiety is less if nothing else.

Same experience about a month ago...I used to think there was nothing worse than watching a newborn get shots - as hard as that is, it isn't any easier with a five year old.

i don't tell my 5 year old ahead of time. but when the nurse comes in and says it's time for a shot i then bribe my son. i know it's not fair but then as he is getting the shot we are discussing what he wants to do. it helps take his mind off the the shot and it's done before he knows it!!!

My suggestion would be not to tell her that she's going in for shots until right before it happens. If she has time to think about it & build up anticipation about how awful it's going to be, it will just be worse.
Also, she really won't need shots for several years. Maybe by the time she's due for more shots, she'll be over it.

Please don't give her any more shots. I've done some research online, books, etc. on how they are so "important" and I kept finding how they are the cause of so many diseases, outbreaks, deaths, diabetes, asthma, etc. Please check this site out to make your own informed decision if you feel that you need to continue. My baby to be born will not have the shots and I won't either.


around 13 or 14...lol Actually they stop screaming when they learn that it is a prick and doesn't hurt that long. Make sure to give tylonol before hand and don't get nervous yourself, they will pick up on it. If you go out and cry afterwards, they see it as a negitive thing that makes mommy cry and that won't help next time. If you smile when it is done and give them a hug and say "see it wasn't so bad" it will calm them down. It does take a lot of self control and if you don't have it in you, step out of the room while they get the shot. I do that with my granddaughter, I can't take seeing her get a shot even though I went through raising 3 kids having them. My youngest had to be held down until he was around 8. My two oldest were ok by the age of 2 because I handled it in a matter of fact way. We are going to get your imunization shots because they keep you from getting certain sicknesses. It will sting for a moment but it will be over fast. I would tell them to hold my hand and squeeze my hand (not with the arm they are getting the shot so they don't tense up that arm) and I kept attention on me rather then what the nurse was doing. Even though we didn't have the screaming, when my oldest was 4, he hid under the chair at the doctors office and the doctor had to talk him out by telling him he wasn't the one giving the shot.

Every one is different. I've seen adults react in much the same way. :-)

Some ideas to consider.

1) Consider changing doctors. It won't change the fact that your daughter will still need shots but some staff members are better at working with some kids than others. From my past experience staffers who talk to the kids about that age in a matter of fact way sometimes actually involve the kids in the process (as opposed to the process even you hate) and sometimes for some kids that gets better results. Haven't you noticed that even adults sometimes like to choose which arm? Haven't you been sometimes preferred one staffer or doctor over another? Found one easier to communicate with than another?

2) Yes, tell your daughter that she is due for her shots. She probably knows anyway and she needs to be able to trust you.

3) Emphasize that everyone gets shots and that nobody really likes giving them or getting them but we do both because it's important.

4) If possible, let your daughter go with you the next time you get shots or bloodwork done. Tell her it does sting a little bit for you and tell her how you cope. (looking the other way, finding something nice to think about, or something pretty to look at, etc.). Her her think of things that will make it easier for her to "help" make getting her shots easier. (Maybe take a favorite toy, hold your hand, sing a song together, etc.).

J. I had a similar experience when my 6 year old got his blood drawn for an allergy test. He was screaming "Why are you letting them do this to me??" It was aweful. I'm happy to report that he just had to get a booster at his 7 year old check and although he wasn't thrilled, and still sat on my lap, it was quick and untraumatic for us both. So it will get better. In the meantime, let you nurses know ahead of time what the past has been like so they don't discuss it until the last second (so she can't dwell on it). Give her a lollypop to suck on during the shot - the sugar actually can soothe them a bit. Good luck in the meantime.

I hate to say this, but the Dr.'s now give my 14 year old sister valume before shots or drawing blood because she ALWAYS freaks out.

But I believe most kids just start to out grow it.

No tips - just support! I just had the same experience with my 5-year-old (except with the addition of a TB test b/c we live in China). My 4-year-old now asks daily how long until she needs to get 5 shots! When it was over, I sent a text to my husband saying "from now on, the dr. is your job, I'm done" If you find an answer, let me know!

I could be wrong, but those are probably the last shots she will need for quite a while, aren't they?

The worst age for my daughter was 5 going into kindergarten it was horendous took all the nurses to hold her down.

Took her for more shots at age6 and it was a piece of cake literally nothing.

I think you did the right thing by telling her ahead of time. I never wanted to "spring" it on my kids. I thought they may feel betrayed, like I was hiding it from them. Just know that your kid is not the first kid they've had that has kicked and flaied. They are used to it =) Just calmly explain that yes it may hurt, but it's necessary to keep her healthy and all kids have to do it. (You may want to tell yourself that too so you don't feel so upset.)

She may get better as she gets older, but she may not. Depends on the kid. The main thing is to stay calm and not let her get all worked up about it.

Hi J.,
I don't know if this would be comparable or not, but I was a hairstylist and had one child that did that till he was 4 or 5 years old. Mom and I had a chat about the next time. I told her to tell him he had to be a big boy because she had to go to another very important appointment at the same time, and that she was counting on him to understand. The next appointment he had, they came in, I greeted him and said bye bye mommy. The child was amazing. I couldn't believe he was the same little guy. Very well behaved, and when Mom returned, he was very proud of himself. We all were proud of him.

I think it is always scary for kids to go to the doctors...my 6 year old was just at the doctor and they had to do a strep test...you would think they were torturing her!! We too had to hold her down, sucks, but you cant feel guilty about it. As far as shots, try to give them some tylenol before you go, it may help relax them...and a promise of ice cream after helps too. My daughter asked if they would hurt and i said yes, but they are to help make you not get very sick.

Getting shots will not traumatize a child, unless you create a traumatic situation. Either stay completely calm or leave the room. Have her dad take her. If she acts differently with him, have him be the one from now on. She shouldn't need so many shots after age 5 anyway. How does she react to other pain, if she skins a knee for example? If she deals OK in general to pain, she's playing up the shot situation. Don't play along with her. (And don't not immunize your child, kids die from tetanus, smallpox, diptheria, and the others.)

The last time you went should be it for a while. But for the future, (you still have the younger children). I wouldn't tell her until you are in the room, and what I used to do is sit the child in my lap, hold their upper bodies, and turn their head, put my hand lightly over their eyes and talked to her calmly. It worked every time, even with my boy who is afraid of needles.
Good luck, I had to watch five nurses hold my 6 yr old down to put an IV in him. (he's 13 now.)

Hi J.,
When my daughter was little she had one bad visit to the lab and everyone in white was cause for panic for her. I was lucky that I was able to take her to the dr for anything and the dr office understood my desire to get her past this bad experience. We took her to our dr visit's so she could see everyone has to get shots, blood work and check-ups. It did work for us reducing her stress and after a few visits that resulted in no "pain" she understood not all visits would be worth all the fuss. She was about 7 or 8 when she realized the shots weren't that painful. We did have a great lab tech who talked her through it and was very calm. I hope this helps. Good luck.

As far as what age they stop, it really depends on your child. My 8 year old is still very scared of shots and makes a huge deal about it, whereas my 6 old has always been able to handle it much better--if she doesn't know about it before hand.
It is easier for us if we do not tell them about the shots before they happen because if they know about it before hand they have time to think about it and get all worked up. If you decided to go that route, make sure the nurse or doctor doesn't say anything much about it in front of them either until it is time. I also will usally promise them they can pick out some sort of treat after we leave for doing a good job. Of course whether they cry or not I let them have the treat because it can be such a scary thing for anyone. Unfortunatly for me my husband has a phobia about needles and doctors--he actually gets physically sick--so I do not have the option of sending him to do it.
Also as others have said, you should be done with shots for quite awhile. I think after we got our last set of shots before kindergarten they said they wouldn't need more until age 10. Although, sometimes that changes if they come out with new vaccines, like the chicken pox one, that they decided you need to have. But for the most part you should be done. I know it is rough to see your child so upset--so good luck!

Hi J.,
It's hard at any age. I took my daughter in april for her boosters (5 shots)! I also realized that we missed the Hep A for my son, age 6 which is fairly new. He got his first and was ok. A little teary but was very brave for his little sis. I put Madi on my lap for her shots, 2 in each leg and one in an arm. The MMR, I think is the one that stings and she was pretty much screaming by that point. I can usually get a good grip on her by holding her on my lap though. It was horrible and i certainly wanted to cry too. I shouldn't have had my son in the room...it was harder on him to see his little sister in pain. By the time we got out to the reception area he was saying he didn't feel well. He sat straight down on the floor and felt sick! I yelled for a nurse and we carried him back. He didn't pass out though. I think that it was all too much for him to see his sister getting poked and then he had missed snack since I had to pull him out early for the appt. Unfortunately, they both have to go back for the Hep A booster in November:( I think i'll be having daddy come along!

I am a pediatric nurse in a local hospital. First, it is a difficult situation for parents and kids. A couple of suggestions, many research studies have been done and found that kids perceive painful situations such as shots as less scary and painful if they are able to sit up rather than lay down. Which make sense because hopefully you can avoid holding kids down. I would recommend having your child sit on your lap facing you with her legs dangling at your sides. Give your child a big hug. If the shots are in the legs have your child cross her arms as you hug her. Her legs are then free for the nurses or medical techs to give the shots. Also, If there are multiple shots you can ask for two nurses to give the shots at the same time in each leg.
I would tell your child only a little before the shots happen. Also, please never threaten your child with shots for bad behavior, sounds silly but it happen frequently. As your child ages, try to explain the reason for shots so she doesn't associate shots with doctors and nurses being mean. Good luck!

The innate is what created the body. Your innate knew exactly which cell to link with which cell, so you don't have a toe growing out of your ear. Your child knows what is good and bad. Maybe, the tears are from her innate truly not wanting the shot. Would you want it? Please be educated on your decision. You never know, your child might actually be smarter that our educated mind wants us to believe.
Just came across this that will help you understand. Blessings, C.

unless you delayed immunizations, she's done. she won't need any more shots until she needs her boosters for 4th or 7th grade.

If she has a fear of needles she may not outgrow that at all. I have a fear of needles but it isn't sever, meaning if I look the other way while I get blood drawn or an IV while pg or in labor I'm alright enough not to freak out but inside I'm screaming and running away.

My oldest had a tetanus booster last year at the age of 12 and she was crawling out of her skin and had to take about 5 minutes (with the nurse waiting) to psych herself up.

I was one of those kids! At my kindergarten shots appt. I kicked the nurse and my mom had to hold me on her lap with arms around me and my legs tucked in hers. I grew out of it and now continually give blood and have no problems when they need to draw blood for labs.

I'm lucky that did not get passed to my daughter. She has an Elmo book that talks about the doctor and she refers to that many times when we have to go.

If I was in the position, I would talk with her before the appointment. Tell her it is going to hurt, but just for a little bit. Have her bring a favorite toy/blanket to squeeze. I'm all for rewards, if appropriate, if she sits still, doesn't throw a fit and gets the shot, then treat her to an ice cream or something. Let her know, but be sure she knows all the rules for the treat. If any of those are "broken" then she does not get the treat.

Hi J.! I had to laugh at Amy's response. She's right! I was one of those adults who cried and shook while getting shots. Now I am much more dignified- I simply sweat and pass out. Ha-ha! Seriously, she may never get over it.
For two weeks now I have had to give my 19 month old daughter injections 4-6 times daily. She was diagnosed with diabetes. I don't know if I will ever get over the stress of having to poke her with a needle. She cries and cries every time. Like you, I wish there was an easier way.
Good luck to you!

Those will be the last that will be given until she is much older unless you give flu shots....we always take a special trip to McDonalds or Toys R US for a special treat afterward, the 2 nurses also do the shots at the same time so its over faster:)

We actually just did our 5 yo shots at 4 so that my son wouldn't have to get them at 5--giving him at least another year before he has to "remember" what that feels like! We also had to hold him down--two nurses and me--and he was sobbing afterwards. What has helped us...we don't say for sure whether he's going to get a shot, but definitely lay the possibility out there...we have a doctor he LOVES and a nurse he ADORES, so it's easy for him to forgive them for doing yucky things to him, and, I learned this when I was in labor and they gave me a shot, but if you're scared and tense your muscles, the shot will hurt a lot more (makes the muscle more sore?)--so getting him to relax was high on my priority list. Also, we went to get flu shots together, and that seemed to help last winter--he saw that I had it done, didn't like it, needed to hold his hand, but all in all was just fine and it was over soon. Good luck; I do think the poster who said that should be it for a while was correct.

If this will make you feel any better, the nurses at our clinic called my oldest son "The Matrix" and had to be sure to keep extra hands on deck when he needed immunizations. He'd use legs, feet, hands and somehow levitate to avoid getting shots. He screamed so loud, the other kids in the waiting room were terrified to go back to the exam rooms because they thought something horrible was waiting on the other side.

The good news is if you've kept on schedule, she won't need shots until she's a little older and probably able to handle the needles a little better. Maybe play dumb about whether she's getting a shot or not? As for if there's more to come, I think there have been some new changes to the vaccine schedules such as a 2nd Chicken Pox shot and something else.. when they enter 1st or 2nd grade. Just call your clinic to find out her next scheduled vaccination.

My baby girl is the same way but she is an infant right now. Wondering if this will get worse as time goes on. Interested to know what you find out.

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