Half Of Parents Say Their Preschooler Fears Doctor Visits

child afraid of doctor

Let's be honest: does anyone, kid or adult, actually enjoy going to the doctor? It can be a nerve-wracking experience, even if you're healthy and just going in for a check-up. But while we as grownups understand that going to the doctor isn't scary or bad, that's a much harder concept for kids to grasp. Plenty of kids don't like going to the doctor, for a variety of reasons. But not getting regular medical care, especially as children, is crucial to being a healthy individual.

A new study shows that half of all parents say their preschoolers fear going to the doctor, which can lead to putting off important matters like vaccinations, and impact the quality of time spent with the doctor. It's a pretty important issue, and this study sheds some light on ways we can make it easier on our kiddos.

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The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health was conducted by the University of Michigan. Responses were collected from 726 parents with at least one child between the ages of 2 and 5. Half of respondents reported that their preschoolers were afraid of going to the doctor. 66% of parents with a 2-3 year old child said that fear of getting a shot was the main reason, while 43% of the same age group cited stranger anxiety.

child afraid of doctor
Credit: iStock / SeventyFour

Getting a shot was the most common reason by far for 4-5 years olds, with 89% of parents saying it was the reason for their child's fear. Stranger anxiety (14%) and bad memories from a previous illness or visit (13%) were also given as reasons for that age group.

This fear of the doctor directly impacts the quality of visit and health care overall. 22% of parents said they were preoccupied by their child's fear at the doctor, and found it hard to concentrate on what the doctor or nurse was saying. 9% didn't ask questions or bring up concerns for fear of extending the visit. 4% of parents delayed their child's vaccines, and 3% cancelled visits completely rather than deal with the stress their child's fear can create.

If your child has a fear of the doctor, it's so important to talk to them and try to work through that fear with them. When it comes to shots, distracting them with videos or toys can be helpful.

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