Flu Shots & Immunization: Keeping Your Kids Calm

By November 2, 2018Get Well, Keep Well, Personal

Flu Shots & Immunization: Keeping Your Kids Calm

For a child, facing needles for immunizations or yearly flu shots can be terrifying. If their feelings aren’t managed, they may even develop a phobia that can make health procedures a problem throughout their life.

But as this adorable video shows, needles don’t have to be painful and scary for kids.

And, as a parent, you can reduce their fear and anxiety by making sure they’re well prepared. Here are some helpful tips: 

Before a needle procedure: 

  1. Talk to them honestly. Tell your child why they need the procedure, for example: “flu shots help prevent you from getting sick this winter or to help you feel better.” If they ask if the needle is going to hurt, a good response is: “I don’t know how it is going to feel for you, but together we can make it as comfortable as possible.”
  2. Plan distractions and rewards. Ask your child how you can make the procedure easier for them. Perhaps you could sing songs together or watch their favourite TV show on your iPad. You’ll also make the experience more bearable by planning a treat for afterward. Kids can cope with a few minutes of discomfort much better if they have a reward to look forward to, such as an extra bedtime story or favourite healthy snack.
  3. Consider buying numbing cream. Numbing cream can help calm a child who is anxious about pain. Most pharmacies stock numbing creams that are safe for children. They can be applied before your child has an injection.  Speak to your Wello Nurse Practitioner about how to use numbing cream, and if it’s a good option for your child.

During:

  1. Stay calm. Children take their cues from you, so it’s important to be relaxed and show them that an injection is a very normal health procedure.
  2. Remind your child to breathe with slow, deep breaths in through their nose and out through their mouth. Breathing in this way will calm them down and give them something else to focus on.  
  3. Distract them with an iPad, talking, or with whatever other fun activity you had planned together. 

Afterward:

  1. Give positive feedback. What you say after the experience can affect your child’s perceptions and memories even more than the actual needle. Reinforce the ways your child was brave and made the process easier for themselves. For example: “you did such a good job staying focused on your toy and taking deep breaths.”
  2. Stick to your promised reward and focus on the excitement and joy of that experience, so children remember their happiness after the procedure more than their fear before.

Earlier this year, a video of a doctor singing a song to distract a 6-month-old during their immunizations went viral. It’s pretty cute!

Want help preparing your child for a needle procedure?
If your child has high needle anxiety and you’d like some extra support or to chat about possible strategies, Wello’s trained and talented nurse practitioners would love to help.  You can book an appointment by emailing hello@wello.ca or by logging into your patient portal.

Wondering where flu shots are available? 
Canadians can get their flu shot from their family doctor, their local health department, at a flu shot clinic or even your local pharmacy.

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References: 

McMurty, Noel et al. ( 2015 ). Interventions for Individuals with High Levels of Needle Fears.  Clinical Journal of Pain 31(10S).