Wellness Matters

10 Ways to Help Your Children Through a Shot

July 26, 2016

A quick shot is a better option than the flu
We all want to do what is best for our children. Vaccinations, such as the flu shot, are meant to protect them from becoming very ill. Keep in mind that a little discomfort in the short term can lead to not becoming sick.

During the last two flu seasons, FluMist – a nose-spray alternative to the injected vaccine –has been shown to be much less effective for children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently determined that FluMist had a protection rate of about 3% compared to a 63% protection from the injectable vaccines for patients ages 2 to 17 years.

With FluMist no longer in use, children will once again have to face the dreaded shot to receive their vaccine.

How do we make it easier for them? Here are 10 tips to help.
  1. Have a short wait time. If possible, avoid a long wait time. If your shot is being given at your provider’s office, ask if you can schedule an appointment during a slow point in the day. If you are visiting a clinic or mobile vaccination service, try to visit when there will not be a line. 
  2. Distract them. Let your children play with a new or favorite toy, sing them a song, allow them to use the camera on a mobile device, blow bubbles. If there is something that you know of that captures your children’s attention, use it to distract them during the shot.
  3. Try coughing. Have your children cough right before the shot and once during. This is proven to help reduce pain in some children. Exhaling helps as well. Ask them to practice blowing out their birthday candles during a shot, or have a pinwheel for them to blow on.
  4. Offer sweets. For some children, a solution of sugar water for them to sip helps alleviate pain. Your children should sip the solution just prior to the shot and immediately following it. Another idea is to provide them a rare treat, such as a lollipop following the shot. Use caution if the lollipop is given during the vaccination. Distracted children may still cry during a shot, so avoid candy that may be a choking hazard.
  5. Use anesthetic (EMLA) cream. Check with your children’s provider about what brand of cream they recommend. About 30 minutes before the shot, rub it on the location where the injection will occur. 
  6. Keep calm. Act like it is no big deal. Children who are a little older can pick up on our body language and tone of our voice. Remain calm and speak to them in a matter-of-fact way about the shot. Don’t prep children by talking about it too much. Also, it is not a good idea to surprise your children with a doctor visit as it may provoke fear.
  7. Use a pacifier. According to a University of Michigan study, pacifier use during a vaccination visit reduced pain during and after the injection. Breast feeding immediately after may also soothe children.
  8. Offer a reward. A trip for frozen yogurt, to a playground or the library following the shot can be something for children to look forward to. Tell them prior to the vaccination what awaits them afterwards. Describe the fun they will have immediately following the shot.
  9. Go early in the day. Try to schedule a shot early in the day so there will be plenty of time for your children to recover from any fear. It will also allow them to be active which will help them recover from any lingering soreness.
  10. Move on. After comforting your children upon receiving a shot, move on to other activities. Don’t let them dwell on the experience. This will be beneficial when shot time rolls around again.
Remember that having the flu means being sick for a week or more, missing school, having a fever, being achy, headaches, vomiting and even hospitalization. If you use techniques best suited for your children to get them through the experience of receiving a shot, you may be surprised how quickly they forget they even got one.


About the Author


Andres Ramgoolam, MD is a Pediatrician with Piedmont Pediatrics, a Cone Health Medical Group practice.

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