Fear of needles can affect anyone, but when it affects a child with a chronic condition like muscular dystrophy (MD), it needs to be properly managed. The child may be subjected to a series of injections during the course of the disease and needles may come into play during diagnosis, as well as during the treatment and monitoring of the condition.

Overcoming a fear of injections is particularly relevant in terms of Duchenne muscular dystrophy – the most common and severe form of MD. It makes up about 95% of all MD cases and results from a lack of the protein dystrophin, which is required for proper muscle function. The disease affects 1 in every 3,500 newborns, mostly boys, worldwide.

Children with Duchenne MD are often confronted with needles. Even the young participants in the world-wide clinical trials of Eteplirsen, an experimental drug that’s showing great promise in the treatment of muscular dystrophy, have to undergo a series of injections.

The following tips may be useful for the parent of a child with MD:

– Explain ahead of time that the shot will sting a little, but that it will help a lot more.
– Consider telling your child exactly what to expect and why he should, for example, keep his arm still. You can use a teddy or doll to mimic the experience at home before you visit the doctor.
– Reassure your child that you’ll remain with him while he gets his injection or his blood drawn. Hold his hand, give him a hug or let him sit on your lap while getting the shot (if possible).
– Let the nurse or doctor know ahead of time that the child is afraid of shots. Ask them to consider using a local anaesthetic.
– Take the child’s mind off the shot by bringing along a favourite toy or book.
– Encourage your little one to count, talk, sing a song with you, or distract him with a picture on the wall. He should know, however, that it’s okay to cry if he wants to.
– Let the child wear earphones and listen to his favourite song.
– Try not to look upset or concerned.
– Encourage your child to breathe deeply and relax.
– Encouraging the child to cough as the needle enters the skin may also help to reduce pain.
– Have something fun planned for after the appointment.

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