How to take the sting out of getting a shot

Does the sight of a needle make you queasy?  Do you dread flu season, or maybe you have a child who panics when the syringe comes out?  Some simple techniques may help take the sting out of your next round of shots.

When Santiago Pollitzer came in for a back-to-school checkup with Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu at Children's Medical Group, he learned he needed a shot.  But the 12-year old wasn't sweating it.

"Not really,” Pollitzer said. “Because it's just really fast.  You kind of don't even feel it."

But when it comes to needles, most of us aren't as stoic as Santiago.

"The shots over in about two seconds,” says Dr. Shu.  “The anxiety can last for weeks, months, even years before the visits."

And Shu knows what that's like to be nervous about needles because she loathes them.  So do many of her young patients, especially the teens and tweens, who remember their last round of vaccinations.

"Some have phobias of the needle,” Dr. Shu says. “They just don't like the looks of the needle, the feel of it

And other people like me are wimps when it comes to pain."

A few patients go into meltdown mode.

"Some run out of the room or hide behind the exam table, because they don't like shots that much,” Shu says. “And these are teenage boys sometimes."

But there are some tricks to take the sting out of shots.

The easiest is distraction.

"Looking away from the shots,” Shu explains.  “So, not looking at your arm while you're getting the poke can be really helpful.  Watching something on video like on your phone."

If that doesn't help, try blowing, or taking short breaths.

“Think about women who are in labor,” Dr. Shu says. “They're doing those controlled- breathing and blowing, that can really help with pain, too."

Applying a numbing cream or cooling spray can also take the sting out of a shot.

"And what I do for myself is, I'll put the icepack on my arm for not even a minute before the shot, have the shot, and put the icepack back on,” says Dr. Shu.

If needles make you feel a little woozy, ask the doctor if you can lie down.

"For some kids who are particularly queasy about shots, it may be helpful for them to lie down,” Shu says.  “Teenagers in particular may be prone to fainting. Even adults can faint after seeing blood, seeing a needle."

There are also commercial devices that may help.  Buzzy, a vibrating bee-shaped shot-distraction tool was developed by Atlanta pediatrician Amy Baxter.  A pain-distraction device known as the Shot Blocker sells on for just $5.