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Fear of Needles – Helping a Child with Type 1 Diabetes Overcome Needle Fear

Helping Children With Type 1 Overcome Their Fear of Needles


Updated April 08, 2011

Fear of Needles – Helping a Child with Type 1 Diabetes Overcome Needle Fear
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Fear of needles, also called needle phobia, can be a problem at any age, but it is especially serious when you have a child with type 1 diabetes. Of course, children with type 1 get multiple shots a day. Add fear of needles to the already difficult process of insulin therapy and you can easily feel helpless and overwhelmed. While there is no quick and sure route to curing needle phobia, there are ways to lessen the fear of needles in your child. Experiment with the following tips.

1. Empathize with Your Child’s Scare

Because you are focused on the necessary task of checking blood sugar or giving the insulin injections, it may not occur to you to tune into your child’s emotion. But treat his fear as real and don’t try to tell him it “won’t hurt.” Instead, you can say, “We can’t stop checking your blood or giving shots, but we can find ways to make it hurt less.” This acknowledges to your child that you know it hurts. This type of empathy combined with a hug or kiss may help calm your child and make it less uncomfortable for him.

2. Approach Diabetes Tasks with Confidence and Calm

Children usually follow the lead of their parents. If you are stressed out and convey that you hate checking blood or giving injections, then your child’s fears are likely to increase. Try to remain calm and upbeat when performing needle-related tasks. Talk slowly, softly and reassuringly. Model courage and a positive attitude. A quiet environment with soothing music may also help calm your child.

3. Allow Your Child to Mentally Prepare for Needle-related Tasks

Some parents take the surprise-attack approach by checking blood or giving an injection unannounced and amid an activity. The intention to get it done with as little reaction as possible understandable. While this might work with some children, it is usually preferable to give a few minutes notice before checking blood or giving an injection. Over time, the child might find he is able to show more courage when he anticipates needle sticks.

4. Use Distraction When Possible

It is relatively easy to distract children for the short period of time it takes to check blood or give an injection. These distractions might involve telling a story, petting a family pet, playing a board game, watching a video or giving soothing touch.

5. Try to Minimize the Discomfort

Fortunately, thinner lancets and needles are available to help reduce the discomfort that comes with piercing the skin. Talk with your doctor for suggestions on short needle syringes and thinner lancets. A number of devices available are also available that hide the needle from view. These devices have been shown to work well with some children who are fearful of needles. It may also help to apply ice to the injection site for about 15 seconds just prior to injection.

Realize that a strong fear of needles is not going to go away just because you try one or more of these tips. Experiment and find the one or two that works best for your child. It may also be necessary for you to regularly consult with members of your diabetes team if your child’s fears don’t lessen over time.


Perez, A, M.S, C.C.L.S. Helping Young Children Succeed With Diabetes Care. Diabetes Self-Management. Accessed March 4, 2009. http://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/articles/Kids_Diabetes/Helping_Young_Children_Succeed_With_Diabetes_Care/Print

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