Soothing the sting
Regardless of your opinion on childhood vaccines, almost everyone can agree that they’re a pain, literally. The dreaded flu season is upon us and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says flu shots are even more important in the time of COVID-19, because no one wants to potentially get both illnesses at the same time. Getting shots is anxiety provoking; allowing a medical provider to cause your beautiful, healthy baby pain is more than unsettling. In fact, research has found that the pain and discomfort associated with shots is one of the primary reasons caregivers “elect not to perform timely vaccination or get flu shots at all.” So how can you and child stay calm?
As a parent of two, I can honestly say that shots still make me cringe. Even though we go through it each year, it doesn’t feel any easier. Sure, my kiddos are a bit older now, and we can talk it out before hand…but it’s still tough, and even tougher for parents with very young children. However, experts say there are still some things caregivers can do to help soothe the sting of shots.
Before the vaccination
Talk it out. Choose a quiet time to talk with your child and speak with a calm and relaxed tone of voice. Use honest, simple explanations that your child can understand. For example, you could say, “We need to make sure that you stay healthy. This medicine can help protect you from the flu.”
Avoid empty promises. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, like, “You won’t feel anything.” This may be misleading.
Acknowledge feelings. Avoid statements like, “Don’t be nervous,” or “Big boys don’t cry.” These statements could make your child feel ashamed if he/she does feel nervous or needs to cry.
Stay calm. Listen to soothing music in the car, or watch a calm movie on the way to your appointment. Leave plenty of time to get to your appointment. If you are tense in traffic or rushing to arrive on time, your child will feel tense too.
During the visit
Much of the unpleasantness of having a vaccination comes from anticipation and a child’s feeling of helplessness. To help restore your child’s sense of control, try offering him or her these choices:
Get comfy. Ask if your child wants to sit on your lap, or by him/herself.
Offer a hand. Ask if they’d like to hold your hand or use a stress ball. Even many adults like to use a stress ball to help keep their hands and mind busy!
Use distraction. Your child can choose an interesting toy or book to bring from home. Bubbles, light-up toys and look-and-find books can help keep your child’s attention away from the needle. Some families use cell phones as a distraction too.
Have them count to three. Many children like to know exactly when the needle will go in. If your child would like, ask the clinician to count to three, ask your child to take a deep breath in, and then exhale slowly as the vaccination is given.
Breathe. Tell them to “breathe in the roses, blow out the candles.” Slow, deep breaths will help your child’s body relax. You and your child can practice this at home before your child’s visit and use again in other stressful situations.
If you have a little one and are planning a flu shot visit in the near future, give these strategies a try. Honestly, anything that can help lessen the sting to your child and your heart is worth the try.