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Health Fusion: A new strategy to help preschoolers fight their fears of getting shots

Does your preschooler hate getting shots? In this episode of NewsMD's podcast, "Health Fusion," Viv Williams has info about a new strategy that may help calm their fears.

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What you say in the first minute after your preschooler gets a vaccine could help reduce distress about it in the future. Researchers say it's not just what you way to them, but when you say it.

The study is part of what's called the "OUCH Study" that looked at caregivers and their kids ages 1 to 5 during vaccinations. Researchers from York University in Toronto found that in the first minute after a shot, if parents said coping-promoting statements, such as "you can do this," the kids' distress levels went up. But if they said the same sort of encouraging statements in the second minute after the shot, the kids got calmer.

They also found that if parents criticized their children or told them that they are fine during the first minute after the shot, it didn't seem to matter. But they noted higher levels of distress if parents used the same sort of disparaging language in the second minute after the shot. And if kids were stressed out and scared before the shot, they would be so after the shot.

The researchers recommend that parents or caregivers should hold off on saying anything for the first minute, and instead, focus on physical strategies, such as cuddling or holding their hands. Then once the children are over the initial post-shot high anxiety, they are more able to benefit from encouraging statements. They say learning about post-needle reactions in order to reduce fear is is important, because needle phobia can set in at about age 10.

The study is published in the journal Pain.

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For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at vwilliams@newsmd.com . Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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