Routine medical checkups and tests are essential to your kid’s overall health because they discover problems before they get worse. And when they do get sick, only a pediatrician can help them get the best treatment. Some children may find it difficult to get help because of their fear of the white coat.
It’s normal to be afraid of going to the doctor at times. The cold environment of clinics and hospitals and possibly painful procedures can make anyone anxious. However, if they develop an extreme fear of the doctor, they may avoid getting treatment and checkups altogether by starting tantrums in the car or just refusing to cooperate with the physician.
Know how your child’s fear of the doctor can develop and what you can do to help your them overcome it.
The Dangers of Iatrophobia
Going to the doctor isn’t an enjoyable experience at all. However, your kid may develop an irrational extreme and irrational fear of doctors. This is called “iatrophobia.” It affects only three percent of the population. This can only be officially identified by a mental health expert, like a psychiatrist.
There are a few signs that your kid’s fear is out of proportion, like the following:
- Disruptive worrying – If you tell your child you’re going to the doctor, they may end up worrying to the point that their normal activities are disrupted. They may pay less attention to their classes, stop enjoying their pastimes, or even find it hard to sleep or eat. They may end up excessively sweating, shaking or even crying on your way to the hospital.
- White coat syndrome – Also known as “white coat hypertension,” this syndrome is a well-documented problem among those with a fear of doctors, hospitals, or even illness. This happens when people exhibit high blood pressure, well above the normal range, only when they’re in a clinical setting. Your kid may have perfectly normal blood pressure when they’re anywhere else, like at home or at the park.
How to Help Your Child Cope With Their Fear
Whether your kid has a mild fear of going to the physician or full-blown iatrophobia, you need to help them overcome it to provide them with the medical care they need. Here are ways to do it.
- Make Their First Experience the Best One – One bad experience in a hospital can cause your child to dread that place for the rest of their life. Prevent their fear by making their first checkup or treatment a pleasant one. An effective way to do this is to take them to a pediatrician. The same goes for visiting other medical professionals, too. When it comes to oral health care, it’s best to take your kid to a pediatric dentist. These doctors have years of certified training and experience in providing checkups and treatment to kids. They know specific techniques to keep your kid calm and relaxed throughout their checkup or treatment.
- Educate Them – Your child should know that going to the doctor is essential for their health. Days or even weeks before your scheduled visit, have them read children’s books and watch educational cartoons about going to the doctor, like “Daniel Visits the Doctor,” “All Better Now” and “It’s Time for Your Checkup.” These show why going to the doctor is important in a non-threatening and calm way.
- Don’t Lie or Joke About It – Some procedures, like getting a shot, may be painful. You’ll only lose their trust when you tell them that it won’t hurt and it ends up being painful. Don’t joke about needles hurting a lot, too. This will give essential shots like vaccines a negative image for them. They should never view injections as a punishment, they should see it as a way to prevent people from getting sick.
- Be There Throughout the Experience – You don’t want your kid to feel alone during their checkup or treatment, as it may add to their anxiety. Stay with them as much as possible during the hospital visit, going away only when it’s absolutely necessary. If possible, stay near the window, so your kid can see you. Your presence provides comfort for your child. Plus, having a conversation with them during treatment can help distract them from possible pain or discomfort. Your support is everything to them, especially when they feel the most vulnerable.
Regular checkups and treatments from the doctor are essential for your child’s health. If they fear the people providing them with treatment, they may refuse to get treated altogether. Use these suggestions to help your child stay calm and relaxed during their hospital visits.