I want to get my child a flu shot but she puts up such a fuss over the needle. Is there any way I can make it less traumatic for her (and me)?
There are lots of proven ways for parents to improve the needle experience. Explain in simple terms why children need the shot. Talk about how doctors and scientists have come up with a way to keep kids healthy, and that the needle will stop them from getting sick and missing out on fun things.
Have a plan for dealing with the needle. Try applying an over-the-counter topical anaesthetic cream to the injection area about an hour before the needle. This can cut the pain down as much as half for some children.
Distract your child, by either talking about something else or letting them play a game on your phone.
Encourage your child to take deep breaths. Try getting younger children to blow bubbles or to blow on a pinwheel.
Pay attention to your own anxiety. Children easily pick up on when you feel nervous and this can make them feel worse. Saying reassuring things like “You’ll be okay”, actually makes kids feel more pain. It’s better to say distracting things or suggest ways to cope.
After the needle, praise your child for trying his or her best. And give your child something to look forward to after the needle, like a special treat on the way home or extra time with mom or dad.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2014.