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Most infants start to cry in the doctor's office at 5 to 6 months of age. This is a normal reaction. The fear of strangers will continue until the child is 2 to 3 years old. Keep in mind that the child is undressed and being handled by giant-sized strangers in a strange place! Reassure your child, but remember that it is natural for a young child to be anxious and fearful and to put up some sort of protest.

Suggestions to Minimize the Protests

  • Never tell your child there won't be an injection (shot). It is better to say nothing.

  • Do not say, "Shut up or you'll get a shot." It is ill-advised to threaten your child in this way.

  • If you tell your child "it will not hurt," the child probably will hear only the word "hurt" and may wonder why it was mentioned. The child may think that the visit will hurt.

  • Try not to be overly sympathetic. It will prolong the pain and the child may use this as an attention-getting mechanism later.

  • Do not refer to the doctor or nurse as "mean" or "bad."

  • Empty your child's mouth of all gum, candy, fruit, and cookies.

  • Do not tell your child that you are going for a treat and then end up unexpectedly at the doctor's office.

  • Do not laugh at the child.

    Constructive Dialogue and Actions

  • Tell your child you know he's good, even when he's crying. Reassure the child that when he's older, it will be better.

  • Let the older child know it's all right to cry or scream or say ouch if the shot hurts. You can explain that injections help keep children healthy and well even when they hurt.

  • Respect the child's dignity and establish trust by telling the truth and explaining what to expect from a visit to the doctor's office.

  • If your physician requests that you hold your child during an office procedure, do it securely.

  • Watch an infant on an examining table at all times.

  • Be on time for your child's appointment.

    It is important to develop a relationship with physicians in whom you have confidence. Feel free to discuss any concerns you have, but do not take time with trivia. Regular checkups are no guarantee against ill health but they help to detect disease earlier.

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