Daughter Terrified of Pain and Is Due for Her 5 Year Old Immunizations

Updated on May 10, 2008
E.K. asks from Seattle, WA
23 answers

Hi. My tender five year old daughter gets very worried about pain. When she had a sliver last week, she had a complete panic attack/meltdown when anticipating us pulling the sliver out with tweezers. (Including hyperventilating and eyes-rolling and nearly fainting. We never had a chance to get near that sliver.) And we did the whole calm voice, gentle distractions, giving her choices, etc. She's such a sweet, sensitive kid who can put up a huge fuss when she's worried.

So the big problem lies in that she needs to get her 5 year old immunization shots. She doesn't know about it yet and I'm trying to think about the best approach to this. Is there any danger in just holding off on them for a year, especially when other immunization doses have been done on schedule? Would waiting be a problem for school records? Is there an oral way of doing immunizations?

I don't think the usual bribe or reward system is going to work for her, but I'd be thrilled to hear any ideas.


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answers from Anchorage on

I would just get her the shots, but not tell her till she is there, and I would get the numbing cream. But, also, I would talk to her doctor about these panic attacks, about what could have triggered them and how to help her cope. Panic attacks can difficult for adults, I can't imagine how out of control a 5 year old would feel!

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answers from Seattle on

E., in washington you can not be forced into giving your child vaccines, ther IS a waiver on teh back of the form that you can sign. any parent at any time can chhose to not vaccinate. i myself am a very educated selective delayed vaccinator simply because i do not want to put those chemicals into my childrens developing body. what does selective delayed mean, well i choose what i want them to have and when based on tere personal development and what i feel is safe. the vaccine book by dr sears is wonderfull as far as resources it even gives you the ingredients and after you read them you might never want to vax again! there is NO harm in delaying (IMO & many other parents to) you can also view info from the vaccine book at www.thevaccinebook.com

even is a mom chooses to vaccinate she should have ALL the info before doing it. even my dr chooses to not vaccinate his children but still offers and pushes it for his patients (it all comes down to the $$)

I know it is a hard choice but go with your mom instinct.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Bellingham on

you may want to go to a homeopathic doctor, there are remedies that are specific for fears. i am waiting until my daughter is 9 years old before even contemplating immunizations, but that is just me (i am a registered nurse and nurse practitioner). keep in mind that up until the age of 7 or 8, kids take everything literally. best of luck to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Hello E.,

Well I understand your trepidation about your daughter getting her shots. That is perfectly normal on your part to be concerned about her being scared.

I think that it would be a bad idea to wait for her shots simply because if you do, then if she is going to be behind on them and of course have to make them up later on (which I think is even harder on kids) My niece got behind on her shots because the doctor that she was seeing kept saying that my neice had a fever. She just has a normally higher temperature and so she was about a year behind and the new doctor had to make them up.

Also if she is going to be starting school or is in school she has to be up to date on them. Some schools will even keep children out of school until they have all of their shots up to date..

When it is my kids turn to get their shots, I dont say anything about it... I just tell them that they have a Dr apt and that way when it is time, they arent so worked up about it. They are worry warts too and just the knowledge of having to get their shots is enough to cause some anxiety and get them upset..

I think that it would be easier on your daugther as well as yourself to just go to the apointment and when the time comes then deal with it, but not before hand. It isnt neccessary to get her upset about it before the fact because that isnt good for her mentally or emotionally!

Another suggestion that I have which sounds a little funny:
I am a Pure Romance Consultant and we have a product that is called Booty Ease, it has 10% Benzocane in it which is whats in orogel but that has 1% Benzocane. This product is multipurpose, apply to eye brows before plucking, apply in mouth for a tooth ache, and so on.. This would numb the area of the shots/slivers/etc. If you are interested here is my website: www.skyvilliard.pureromance.com, you can also email me at ____@____.com for any questions or comments!

Good Luck! S.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I just took my son for his immunizations and physically held him while they gave him the injections. I didn't tell him about it beforehand because there was NO way he was going to be okay with it. And all he would do would be stressed and upset and fight going to the doctor.

He was NOT happy during the injections. He cried and struggled. And I was a little teary eyed (where he couldn't see me), too. But bim bam boom, they were done within 60 seconds. I had to carry him out to the van and he stopped crying while we were in drive-thru at McDonalds.

He protected the band aids on his arms ALL weekend so he could rush in to show his preschool teacher that he'd gotten "twenty" shots. But other than that, he got over it really quickly.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

Hi E.,

First of all, we don't vaccinate (various reasons--it is each parent's decision to do what is right for their children in all sorts of areas of child-rearing), so I'm not much help there. However, I did read a few of the responses that are inaccurate. In the state of Washington you do NOT have to be up to date on vaccinations nor are you required to vaccinate your children in order for them to be accepted into school. The immunization form you fill out for school entrance has a waiver on the back side. You have a right to waive your children's immunizations (any or all) based on religious or personal beliefs. The link to this document is here: http://www.doh.wa.gov/cfh/Immunize/documents/Cis06.pdf

That being said, if you think your daughter needs a little more time to cope with it, just hold off until you are comfortable. Every child is different. You are the parent and you know what your children need--you have the right to do what is best for them. Your pediatrician might also have some suggestions, so definitely call and get his/her insight. I'm sure your daughter is not the first to have a mighty fear of pain. Who likes getting poked with needles? I sure don't!

God bless and best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Portland on


I have a different opinion than a lot of the others. I think fear is usually of the unknown and anxiety makes it worse and kids really pick up on our unease- if you are worried about the shots, then she will think it is really bad. What your daughter needs to know is that you have confidence in her ability to get through it. Help her prepare...I suggest getting a doctor kit. Explain all that doctors do, including giving shots. Let her practice giving shots to you (wipe with cotton ball, poke, band aid). You say "ouch, that hurt". Then, let her comfort you (band aid and big hug) and you say that her comforting helped. Tell her that it will hurt, but she is really brave and you know that she will be OK. There are several kids books too, that discuss shots (Curious George Goes to the Hospital and Bernstein Bears has one too). When you get to the doctors office, or even on the way, reinforce that she will be getting a shot today and it will hurt, but you know that she is such a brave big girl that she will be OK. You could also say that once you're done at the doctor you will get a special treat. Stay calm and relaxed about it and she will too. People feel more pain if they are stressed. If they can stay calm it will hurt less. You can tell her that too!

A surprise attack causes more stress and will teach them that you never know what could happen when you go to the doctors' office. I think they should feel secure in knowing that you will help them handle what is going to happen.

A little about me... I had several ear and gum surgeries as a child and allergy shots starting at the age of 5. My mother used the above tactics to get me through whatever I had to endure. Now, I use the same types of strategies to help me handle having cavities filled without novicane. I also have a two year old who has handled getting shots well (so far!).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Spokane on

I was like your daughter when I was her age. My mom tried something pretty cool - she put me in charge of the process. She explained to me that I would need the shot and asked me what I thought would help make it more relaxing and fun and she also made it a celebration - sort of a rite of passage. Letting me know in advance gave me time to adjust to the idea, but she did it in a way that wasn't scary, a day or 2 in advance. We went out for ice cream later to celebrate my "transition" into being a "big girl." Another idea my friend had when her son developed diabetes - she took the shot alongside him in the office at the same time, holding hands (hers was a saline shot). That way they were in it together and he didn't feel so alone. Good luck with it!



answers from Richland on

My daughter is the same way.She just got her 5 year immunizations and was very nervous.I did not tell her until we were getting ready to go then I said when we got done at the Dr.We would go to Target and she could pick out a little something.I also told her she could cry as much as she wanted.She just had to get it over with.She screamed the intire time they were giving the shots but when it was over she was so proud of herself and she told everyone for days that she got 4 shots and was so brave.
I would just get it over with.If your daughter is anything like mine this is her personality and waiting will not make it any easier.
Hope that helps
Good Luck!



answers from Portland on


I have a now 9 yr old who has a phobia to shots. This is way beyond fear or anxiousness; it is a classic irrational phobia. She had to have vaccines -- the schools WILL NOT let her in without them ; it's the law. On top of that because ahe has asthma she is in the high risk category during flu season and MUST get a flu shot.

As for the 5 year old shot series-- for those of us with needle phobic kids it's a horror series-- here's what I did. I NEVER advocate lying to a child or surprising them with negative events. HOWEVER, there is no way to rationalize with a true phobia, psychologists will confirm this. As a result I neglected to inform my daughter that she would be getting her shots when we went in for the check up. The doctor knew and understood, she had seen the behaviors associated with my daughter's phobia. We had the check up. Then I cuddled my daughter in my lap, facing me. The nurse came in placed the needle tray behind us and I hugged my little girl very tightly and then informed her that I forgot that we were going to need shots. at which point she wailed, the nurse did her job and I held on for dear life. Believe you me I was more traumatized than anyone. BUT it was hte only way to do it. SHE HAD TO HAVE THE IMMUNIZATIONS and I would have never gotten her out of the house if she knew they were coming.

I made certain that we very quickly had a pleasant follow-up visit to the doctor's. She was nervous but I assured her that I had called ahead and no shots were going to happen.

I know that many moms are shaking their heads but I can assure you those moms have never dealt with a true phobic condition. There is no rationalizing, bribing or bullying that can alter this hysterical fear. If there were there would be a lot fewer people afraid to fly.

So there's my story



answers from Portland on

E., I went through the same issues with my son. It is so frustrating, and I truly empathize with your situation. The sliver story is one I could have told, myself. My son is 12 now, and his responses are more reasonable these days, so there is hope ! With regard to the shots, I would strongly urge you to discuss this with your pediatrician. The number of children who are missing their vaccinations is so alarming to me. Vaccines are simply too important, escpecially now that so many parents opt out. I have always given my kids Tylenol about 20 minutes before appointment time. It gives some pain relief and can settle them down a bit. You clearly want to do the right thing, and your doctor is the one who is qualified to give you honest and practical guidance. I wish you luck and lots of patience.



answers from Portland on

I'm not sure what to do about the shots, I would talk to the Dr. before time and ask his opinion on how to go about it. I do know most schools will not let a child in who isn't up to date on them.
But for the minor things like slivers, I found a way to get my granddaughter to let me take them out without any hassle. She was afraid of it, too. I kept a can of solarcaine or lanacaine around. Sprayed it on the foot or wherever, waited a minute and pulled them out. Occasionally, even had to dig one out. I explained to her there would be no pain, after the first time she would just relax and let us take them out.
Hope this helps!



answers from Spokane on

My oldest daughter who turned 6 yesterday is exactly like your daughter. Last summer the week before she started Kindergarten we went in for the dreaded appointment and like other moms who have posted we also had to hold her down and hug her tight. She screamed, cried and yelled but when it was done she recovered very quickly with the help of our encouragement and comments on how brave she was. Only one problem, they had ran out of one of the vaccines but did not tell us until afterward, so make sure when you go in that they have all the vaccines available. We had to go back the next week for the last shot and that was not easy but we got through it. We used a reward system and took her out for ice cream afterward which was a big help. A year later she doesn't remember the pain and she still tells her sisters that she was brave. It was not easy but sometimes the best way to deal with fear is with prayer and lots of love and hugs. Hold on to your daughter and assure her that you love her and pray with her. Good luck.



answers from Corvallis on

Hi E.,

I totally agree with Kathy's advice on phobias. While I believe that a rational, honest discussion is best, once a child (or adult) has reached the stage of phobia, rational thought is useless. You just have to trick them into doing what needs to be done.

My sister was terrified of pain and needles to the point that she avoided telling anyone about the boil growing on her arm. She was six at the time. It wasn't until she made herself a sling to keep her arm up that we became aware of the problem. By then, she had a major infection, and had to be tricked into going to the doctor. She had to be held down by two nurses, my mother, and my grandmother, while the doctor cut the sore open and sucked out the poison. From the waiting room, I could hear her blood curtling screams.

I had thought at the time that they could have handled it better, but then, several years later, I was asked to take her to a dentist appointment. OH MY GOD! What an ordeal.


answers from Seattle on

Hi E., prosponing the appointment? Talk with your doctor to see if it is OK? What you can do to help your dother is to start "practising" for the appointment by a pretend play at home. Find a kid doctor kid and just start "practising" at home. If she knows what is going to happen, she will be much like to cooperate. Start with going to the doctor's office, greeting the people there, filling forms, reading books in the waiting room and etc. Just work on all details and make it as long as possible. This way when you get to the injection part it will seams like it is just a little part from a long proses. Talk about that it hurts a little bit but it will go away quick. Show her how to react to the pain too. Don't forget to include the part when she gets a sticker and a loli-pop for being so good. Pretend licking it and talk about where you are going to put the sticker. May be you can go to a toy store and chose a toy that you will go shopping for after the doctor appointment. All that really worked for us and my son actually enjoys his doctor appointments.



answers from Seattle on

There is no harm in holding off her shots unless she has health issues, some parents are choosing not to vaccinate at all or to selectively vaccinate. There is an exemption form available at www.accesswa.gov to explain why she hasn't had all her shots, if you select personal or religious beliefs they can't question you or not let her in to schools.

I would feel horrible having to hold my kids down! For much more information on a more reasonable vaccine schedule, read Dr. Sears' new book, The Vaccine Book, just came out in October so it's got new information from one of the most highly respected childcare authorities.

Our oldest had a sliver once and it was easiest to remove while she was sleeping. But with any other injuries a popsicle or her scooby doo ice pack seem to do the trick. Plus there's the "magic" dora bandaids! Good luck in finding what's best for your daughter and family!



answers from Seattle on

I have a 5 year old son...not quite as terrified of pain as your daughter but when I tell him we have to go to the doctor he will start crying that day even though the appointment isn't for another week! LOL!! As far as school goes..yes you do have to have their shots all up to date in order for them to begin school. They won't let them start without it being done. As far as the actual appointment goes the only advice I can give is what I do for my son, which is kind of a roll play. When I tell him he has to go get his shots we walk through the steps that will happen at the doctors office. I tell him she will wipe the spot on his arm then I squeeze his arm like they do and tell him to take a deep breath and let it out and when he lets it out I pinch his arm with my finger obviously not too hard. But it makes him feel so much better and braver that he knows exactly what will happen. When we are in the office the day of the appointment as the doctor is getting ready I tell him "see it's just like we talked about" "now she's going to clean your arm" and so on. I also hold him stradling me so he can rest his head on my shoulder and that way I can hold him around his arms in case he does jump or something. We have done this for the last two years and it has worked really well!! Maybe it might work for you! Good luck



answers from Portland on

Ugh! My five year old son just had those done. He's usually very brave, but he was a mess for those five shots! You may want to call her pediatrician and ask for some advice (and perhaps a sedative? ... for mom!). Another idea to consider is having someone else she trusts bring her. My kids often aren't as emotional with my husband.

I'm not sure that you should tell your daughter in advance. Maybe making it matter of fact just before it happens and getting through it as quickly as possible might be a better way to go. Acknowledge her feelings afterwards and give her plently of sympathy and kudos. Sometimes it just helps to get ourselves in the right frame of mind and preparing ourselves with extra patience goes a long way. Best wishes ...



answers from Portland on

Yes, it will be a problem for school records. They won't let her in if she doesn't get them. Personally I wouldn't tell her, just make the appointment and go. I believe it's the anticipation and her perceived pain that are her problem. They are pretty good about doing the shots quick. If she asks "Will it be painful or hurt", just tell the truth and say "I don't know, if there is it will be very short." When I did my daughter's immunizations this last year she is six by the way that is how I did it and she did fine. As long as you don't make it into a big deal it should make it easier for her. If your anxoius she will feel that vibe off of you and be scared, keep your calm. When we got to where we were getting the shots I had her sit on my lap and I gently but firmly held her hands with mine in her lap while they gave her the shots. Afterwards she got hugs and kisses and a nap.



answers from Portland on

My doctor give me some topical novicane type gel prior to the exam. You put it on about 1hr prior to the appointment, cover it with a bandaid, and it numbs the skin and sub-layers. We laid my son on the exam table and I was distracting him while the 2 nurses were injecting into his thighs. He wanted to know when the shots were and they were already done. I highly recommend this to everyone. Wish more doctors offered this up front. I know to ask for it after an episode with my older son.
Good luck,



answers from Portland on

You might help set up some make-believe situations before the immunizations are due. I've heard of playing doctor with a "sick" doll or teddy bear and having the doctor/child give a shot and soothingly explain the need for it during the procedure. If your daughter can "convince" a toy that it needs medicine or a shot to keep it well, and note how quickly the process can be over, it might help soften the fear. If she's able to reason that far, she might also convince the toy that lots of terror hurts much worse than any shot.

I would guess she'll still be fearful and will make a fuss, but as Karen S has noted, kids tend to be really proud when they have survived the impossible. That's how my daughter was when she was little, until high school, when she worked up the nerve to donate blood. That was empowering for her.

Your daughter could still be just as fearful in a year. If there were an oral vaccine, it would be offered instead of shots. What your daughter is going through is common, and avoiding it won't really do anything to help her fear of pain.

Just curious: For the sliver, did you give her the choice of keeping the sliver, or trying to use the tweezers herself?

Keep in mind that it's really likely that your anxious desire to protect your daughter can subtly feed her fearful attitude. The more calm and matter-of-fact you can be about the whole thing, the less stress you will all experience. Good luck to you both!



answers from Portland on

All public schools will not let your daughter start school without having the immunization form filled out. That dees not mean that it has to be filled in with shot dates, just signed and dated for an exclusiong (currently in Oregon only religion exclusions allowed but they don't check and there's nothing they can do legally to try and make you prove it) just sign and date it and turn it in.
That however does not solve the initial problem of your daughter's fears. I taught kindergarten for years and you are not doing her a favor by putting of what you would like done. Talk with the doctor about her fears and if your dr doesn't empathize with you/her consider a different dr.
Also, in my opinion, as much as kids "hate" shots, my children were excited to get their shots because that meant to them that they were big enough to go to kindergarten.
Good Luck!



answers from Eugene on

I have a similar situation with my 6 year old daughter. She has anxieties about so many things, and pain is definitely one of them. She has had splinters too and refuses to even let us look at them. What we've done for that, is had the "Tooth Fairy" take them out for her. During the day she worries about EVERYTHING, but at night, she seems to be a good sleeper. We waited until she fell asleep and then with a flashlight and tweezers, we took out her sliver (we've done this twice now). She slept through the whole thing. She did fidget once or twice, but slept through it all.

As for the shots, we just did that too, we thought we were done until she was 9 or so, but she had to have a booster. When she found out, she started crying in the middle of the apt and really didn't stop until we were done. When the shot was about to happen, she was screaming. I did hold her tight and hugged her hard (to keep her hands from moving) and they did it in her leg. It was hard, but short. I just try to really explain that shots are good for you, and the pain is short. That if we didn't get the shots, she could get sick and the pain would be longer and worse than a short shot. The doctor also suggested she try chanting, "I'm braver than I thought, I'm braver than I thought" and that by the time she got through that a few times the shot would be over. I tried, "I think I can, I think I can" or other mottos. She still cried and screamed, but at least it made me feel as if I was doing something to help

If your daughter is going to go to kindergarten, I know the schools also want you to be up to date on your immunizations, so ask before postponing. It's definitely hard to have your child so afraid and crying, but I feel that this is a case where you have to work through it as best as you can. Maybe talk with the doctor about her reactions (almost fainting, etc.) so they can best help you as well.

Good luck from someone who has a "worried" daughter too.


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