Here are a few simple and practical tips to use every day with your diabetic child to limit pain and anxiety when having diabetes treatments, including finger pricks (blood glucose readings) and insulin injections.

Fortunately, the needles for injecting insulin have become shorter and thinner. If you use the proper injection technique, most of the time the needle will only cause a slight pinching sensation.

Children can sometimes use the pain to manipulate others to stop the injections. However, it is important to remain alert: you may be using a poor injection technique, the alcohol you’ve swabbed on the skin may not be completely dry before you insert the needle, or the needle may be blunt, etc.

It can be helpful for parents to give themselves an injection (without insulin, obviously) to demystify the procedure so they don’t transmit their fear to their child.

Every child reacts differently to fear and pain. What’s important is to find what works. Let your child choose the injection site every second time to give the child a feeling of control over the situation.

Most importantly, these painful episodes for the child should take place in a calm, quiet place. If the child can relax, the pain will not disappear, but it will be more tolerable.

The Gate Control Theory

The Gate Control Theory is based on the fact that pain signals to the brain can be influenced by emotion and anxiety. As appropriate, the neurological “gate” will open or close to allow pain signals to pass through.

For example, rubbing the skin just prior to an injection, hugging a favourite stuffed animal or papa’s arm (any motor activity that doesn’t inhibit treatment) will reduce the pain felt. The gate will close and not let pain signals continue to the brain.


If your child prefers to watch the injection, help him stay in control and feel more secure by asking him to take some big breaths, count the seconds, etc.

On the other hand, if your child prefers not to watch, you can distract him during the injection. Ask him, for example, to talk to his doll or favourite stuffed animal, tell you a story, blow bubbles or even look through a kaleidoscope. You can also cuddle and rock your child during treatment.


Comparing the different treatment steps to similar events in daily life can also be helpful. For example, you can compare the pain of the injection to a mosquito bite.

The magic glove

Pretend you are putting an invisible glove on the child’s hand while saying that the glove has magic powers to numb the hand and decrease the pain in his fingertip. While you are explaining that the glove is now in place, gently massage the child’s arm. That will relax it and prepare it for the prick.

Positive reinforcement

When your child bravely overcomes a painful episode, show how proud you are. That will encourage the child to act bravely next time.

Even if a technique doesn’t work the first time, don’t give up. It may work the next time. Don’t hesitate to talk to a health care professional to get personalized advice for your child.