It’s no secret that kids don’t like getting vaccinated. And they’re not the only ones—many adults dread the thought of a needle too. The reality is that shots are critical to keep your child healthy. And while adults are able to know that the pain from a needle will only be temporary, a child is less likely to understand.
Children can be given more than 20 vaccinations by the time they are 4 years old so it’s better if they can overcome their fears sooner rather than later. A phobia of needles in children can continue on into adulthood, which can result in missed necessary vaccinations and yearly flu shots.
Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help make vaccines easier for your child (and you too).
Find a Way to Distract Your Child
If you are looking for a way to make shots easier for your child, one of the best things you can do is provide a distraction when the needle comes out. Bring toys from home, blow bubbles, offer a game on your phone, recite the ABCs, ask them to tell you a story—anything that distracts them from the shot and engages them in an activity can serve as a much-needed distraction to keep your child from focusing on the shot.
Have Your Child Cough
Research shows that coughing one time before and one time during shots can keep painful reactions to a minimum. If your child doesn’t want to cough, have him or her imagine blowing out candles on a birthday cake. This mimics the same movement as a cough and provides the same pain relief.
Give a Sweet Treat
It turns out that the lollipops you used to get at your doctor’s office as a child may have actually been serving a purpose. Studies reveal that giving infants (ages 1 month to 12 months) something sweet before immunization resulted in less crying during and after the vaccination. While a small amount of sugar is safe, try not to overdo it. Remember: Moderation is key.
Rely on Their Favorites Cartoons
Making shots hurt less for your child may be as simple as busting out their favorite animated characters. In fact, children tend to be less distressed when cartoons are on during immunizations. It doesn’t really matter what type of cartoon you use—what’s important is that the cartoon offers your child something else to focus on other than the needle.
It’s likely your doctor won’t have a television in the exam room, so don’t hesitate to bring your own device (like an iPad) from home.
Use a Topical Anesthetic
Consider using a skin-numbing product, such as Emla cream or spray, also known as lidocaine and prilocaine. This can help reduce immunization pain significantly by blocking the nerves from sending painful impulses to the brain.
Keep Your Calm
Although it can be easy to let your nerves get the best of you when your child is getting worked up, it’s important that you stay calm. Work with your pediatrician or nurse to keep your child as relaxed as possible before, during and after the shots are given. Calmly explaining to your child why the vaccinations are needed can make a world of difference too.
If your child is throwing a fit and won’t stop crying, it may be a good idea to step out of the room for a short time while the nurse and doctor do their job. It’s possible that your child is overreacting in your presence because he or she knows you will respond. (Sometimes parents will intervene and refuse the vaccine to comfort their child.) You can always, of course, comfort your child as soon as the shots are over.
Consider Using a Pacifier
Whether you give your child a pacifier regularly or not, using one during vaccinations can be comforting. You may even want to dip the pacifier in a sugar solution (something as simple as sugar and water usually works) to make it more effective.
If your child appears to be in pain and is fussing, breastfeeding immediately following the shots can help. This may reduce the amount of time your child spends crying.
Consider the Order of the Shots
Interestingly, the order that the shots are given can actually make a difference in making the shots hurt less. One study revealed that babies were less likely to cry when vaccines were given in the following order: first the vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus, and acellular pertussis combined with inactivated poliovirus and Haemophilus influenzae type b (DPTaP-Hib, or Pentacel) followed by the vaccine for pneumococcal conjugate (PCV, or Prevnar).
If your child is in need of shots—from routine vaccinations to a yearly flu shot—consider visiting your local Medical City Children’s Urgent Care clinic.
With four locations throughout the DFW area, each of our clinics is staffed with qualified physicians ready to serve you.
Make sure you use the Web Check-In® feature before your visit to avoid sitting in the waiting room with your child before the visit.
Disclaimer: Patients’ health can vary. Always consult with a medical professional before taking medication, making health-related decisions or deciding if medical advice is right for you.