How to Get a Shot

Three Methods:Preparing to Get a ShotCalming Your Nerves During the InjectionHelping Your Child Get a Shot

Getting a shot can be terrifying for anyone, whether you're an adult or a child. Belonephobia is an extreme fear of needles, and it affects about 10 percent of the population.[1] You likely know from experience that the anticipation of the shot is worse than the pain itself. Luckily, there are ways to manage your or your child's anxiety and get you through this important part of the healthcare routine.

Method 1
Preparing to Get a Shot

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    Get mentally prepared. Take a deep breath and think about how fast the time will go. To think positive thoughts, promise yourself a reward after the experience, like you might do for children. Go get that burger from your favorite restaurant, even if you're on a diet.
    • Remind yourself that the shot is going to help you in the long run. Whatever shot you're getting, it's for your own health.
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    Ask a friend to come with you. Think of the person you most trust to comfort you and not make you feel ashamed of your fear. Ask him or her to come to the doctor's office with you and help you stay calm. They can hold your hand, talk you through your anxiety, or just listen to your concerns while you wait.
    • Bringing a childhood comfort toy, like a teddy bear, can also make the experience a lot more bearable. Don't be embarrassed about it — do whatever you need to make sure you go through with this shot.[2]
    • You might also listen to music on your phone or iPod to distract you while you wait. You can even do this while you're getting your shot!
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    Be open with your health care provider.[3] Tell him or her that you flat out don't like shots. Talking about your fear will both make you feel better and let the person giving you the shot know that they need to be more cautious with you.
    • Ask them to give you the shot in whichever way causes you the least stress. You might ask the provider to count to three before giving you the shot, so you’ll know it’s coming. Or, you might want to look away and have him give the shot without warning.
    • Understanding how the shot will help might set your mind at ease. Ask the provider to tell you how it will make your life better. You can request a handout with information about the shot, as well.[4]
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    Ask your doctor to prescribe EMLA cream before your shot. This prescription lidocaine cream numbs the skin, so you won't be able to feel the injection. When patients use EMLA cream, the feel less pain and anxiety while getting shots.
    • Adults: Apply 2.5g of the cream to a 7-10 inch (20-25 cm) area of skin on the upper arm/shoulder, where you'll get the shot. Cover it up with a bandage, and leave the cream on your skin for at least an hour.[5]
    • Children: ask your doctor whether you should use EMLA cream on your child.
    • Side effects include pain, swelling, burning, redness, paleness, and temperature sensation change.

Method 2
Calming Your Nerves During the Injection

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    Distract yourself with positive thoughts during the shot. Think of something that always makes you laugh, or recall your happiest memory. One recent study even showed that thinking about butterflies, flowers, fish, and smiley faces relaxed people while getting shots.[6]
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    Avoid looking at the needle. Seeing it might make you feel worse, especially in the moments leading up to and during the injection itself. Don't look at the supply tray or table, either! Just close your eyes and breathe.[7]
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    Relax your arm completely before getting the shot. Practice dropping your shoulder and lightly pressing your elbow against your waist. Doing so relaxes the Deltoid muscle, where you usually get shots.[8] Not only will the shot itself hurt less, but your arm will feel better more quickly than if you tense up during the injection.
    • Jumping in the middle of a shot can cause nerve pain, which leads to worse pain at the site of the injection.[9]
    • In fact, if you tense your body for an injection, you may experience pain in other areas as a result.[10]
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    Be conscious of your breathing. Take a deep breath right before the shot, and exhale slowly during it. Slow, deep breathing temporarily helps with pain relief because it relaxes muscle tension. Also blowing in and out while the shot is given. [11] Deep breathing also lowers blood pressure, balances Ph in our bodies, and helps in avoiding harmful stress hormones.[12]
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    Move your arm immediately after the shot.[13] By working the muscles at the injection site immediately, you increase blood flow to the area. This, in turn, speeds up the healing process. In the hours and days after your shot, keep moving your arm about to speed up the recovery process.
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    Do not take a painkiller to relieve the pain. A recent study showed that pain killers such as Ibuprofen, Advil or naproxen taken just after the HPV vaccine reduced the shot's effectiveness.[14] Researchers believe other vaccinations may respond the same way. The painkiller causes the body to build up antibodies that work against the vaccine. To avoid this, just deal with whatever pain you're feeling. You can add an ice pack or cool compress for about 15 minutes to the injection site to relieve pain.[15] You can get through it!

Method 3
Helping Your Child Get a Shot

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    Empathize with your child. Even for adults, the thought of getting poked with a needle can be frightening. Kids, with their big imaginations, tend to be even more afraid. About 2-8% of children have an actual phobia of shots, but all kids need to feel compassion and care to face an injection.
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    Try to breastfeed if you have an infant receiving the shot. A recent study that examined ways to help babies in pain showed that breastfeeding reduces pain in infants.[16][17] The familiar, soothing action helped calm infants down while they got shots. Their heart rates remained stable, and the babies did not tense up or cry. If breastfeeding is not an option for you, try one of the following with your infant:
    • Give him or her a pacifier to suck on
    • Provide soothing skin-to-skin contact
    • Swaddle the baby
    • Give him or her glucose water drops with a pacifier
    • Place a musical mobile 20-25 cm (8-10 inches) above the baby[18]
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    Talk calmly with older children about getting the shot. Children learn from their parents, so don't put negative ideas about the shot in their heads. Talk to them about what will happen at the doctor’s office, but act like it's a normal part of life, not a big deal they should worry about. The more relaxed your attitude toward the shot is, the more relaxed your child will be when getting one.[19]
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    Call the shot by a less frightening word.[20] Young children (under 7) might associate the word "shot" with guns and serious injuries. To avoid unnecessary anxiety, call the shot something more positive. "Booster" or "super booster" reframe the injection as something that will make them strong, not hurt them.
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    Read a book about shots with your child.[21][22] There are many educational children's books on the market that can set your child's mind at ease. One of the scariest things about getting a shot is not knowing what's going to happen. These books provide information about the process and can make children feel more secure.
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    Talk with the health care provider about ways to make it easier on the child.[23] The person giving the shot can make a big difference in your child's experience. One successful strategy is to have the health care provider give the child a choice of how many boosters they want to receive. If your child is due for one shot, have them ask "Do you want one or two boosters today?" If your child is due for two shots, ask "Do you want two or three?" Children almost always choose the smaller number, and in doing so, feel like they had a say. If the health care provider gives them a choice in the matter, children relax and feel more in control of the situation.
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    Talk to the doctor about EMLA numbing cream.[24] As discussed in the previous section, EMLA is a numbing cream that can reduce pain if applied hours before the shot. However, it doesn't always work perfectly, so your child might still feel some pain. It's a prescription cream, so talk to your pediatrician ahead of time about whether they recommend using EMLA on your child.
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    Distract children during the shot. Before getting the shot, talk to them about what they are going to hold, look at, or do during the shot to distract themselves. Some children may want to sing, while others might prefer to hold a bear or favorite blanket. Children sometimes find it calming to be quiet and look a parent in the eyes for comfort. Talking about what you're going to do ahead of time will help your child stay calm in the moment.
    • You can also distract the child by reading a book, playing music, or playing an educational game with him or her during the shot.[25]
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    Be your child's best cheerleader during the shot.[26] When the time comes, maintain a positive, cheerful attitude. If you show how worried you are about your child's reaction, chances are good that your child will pick up on your anxiety. Instead, be a good coach. Tell him or her that they're doing a great job, that you've never seen anyone be so good at the doctor's office before. Cheer them on: "You can do it! You're doing great!"
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    Promise a reward for getting through it.[27] When preparing them for their booster, tell children that there will be a prize on the other end of the doctor's visit. It might be as simple as a lollipop or ice cream cone, or you might go big with a trip to the zoo.
    • Don't tell them that the prize depends on whether they cry or not. Crying during the shot is alright. They just have to make it through the doctor's visit to get their reward.
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    Be careful with pain relievers. Doctors don't recommend giving children Tylenol before getting a shot. It's actually normal for the body to have a low-grade fever after a shot.[28] Only if the fever rises above 101°F should you use Tylenol to bring it down. A little bit of pain or fussiness after a shot is also normal, so don't use a pain reliever unless your child complains about a lot of pain.


  • Relax your arm, and don't look at the needle. Tensing your muscles will make it hurt more. Take a deep breath and let all your stress out the second before you get the shot.
  • Don't think about the shot if you worry yourself to the point of nausea. Belonephobia only affects 10% of the population. If you are part of the 10%, prepare yourself. The pain and shot will only last a second.
  • No matter how old you are, hold someone's hand. Just the presence of a trusted friend will make it easier to relax.
  • Don't be afraid to cry. Do whatever you need to do to get through the procedure.
  • Ask the doctor to give you the shot in the arm you write with. Even if it hurts at first, your arm will heal faster if you use the muscles more often.
  • Go to the gym before the shot to relieve anxiety. A good workout will use up some of your adrenaline and leave you relaxed.
  • While you're in the waiting room, play an iPad or listen to music and it will take your mind of the needle. Make sure you bring something to do.
  • Don't worry about feeling silly if you cry! Even if you're an adult it doesn't matter and doctors are used to it.


  • Remember, the shots are often far less unpleasant than the diseases they protect you from.
  • Don't try to attack the doctor.
  • Do not run away from the shot; it could be dangerous! Besides, you're going to have to get it eventually.
  • Do not push the doctor's hand away; you could get hurt.
  • If you work out before the shot, be sure to do it an hour before you receive it, as this could raise your blood pressure, which could potentially be harmful for some people.

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Injections