Taking the “ouch” out of vaccines
I must admit, getting their shots is not my kids’ idea of a good time. No matter how much park time we had before, no matter what promises of tasty treats would be bestowed upon them after, it just isn’t appealing.
But I have been able to make it more tolerable by making it a game and telling them how important it is for their health.
I will tell my girls, “We are going for our pokes today! Remember how we get a poke in our arm or leg and it stings for a bit but it helps protect us from icky germs and bad things?” Then I take my finger and give their arm a little poke. They giggle and we’re both more prepared for the shot.
My oldest, Claire, was a champ from the beginning. Even as an infant she surprised me by stoically accepting her fate, looking the nurse straight in the eye as she drew the vaccine into the needle. She also amazed me at how quickly and easily she was comforted and calmed afterwards.
The secret to my success? I empowered her with the knowledge of what to expect during the shot, and the information she needed to feel in control.
When her little sister came along, Claire was in the role of the “big sister” and REALLY found purpose. She helps me by explaining to her little sister, Grace, what “pokes” are and why they are necessary. She even goes as far as volunteering to go first just to prove it wasn’t that bad and that she wasn’t afraid.
Now Grace, well…I haven’t been that lucky. Even with practicing “pokes” on her stuffed animals, watching her older sister not shed a tear, and being promised full sugar snacks in the car, this one didn’t buy it. She hides, refuses, goes for the door, and screams “NO!” I’ve even tried giving her a pain reliever and fever reducer before the shot to prevent discomfort, but that had little effect.
So I went in search of information to see what I could do to ease both the anxiety and the pain of a “poke.” Here’s what I learned can help:
- Nursing – Allowing a baby to suckle the breast, bottle or pacifier can help manage pain as well as be a distraction.
- Take a Deep Breath – The best thing you can do for your baby is stay calm before and during the doctor appointment. Babies can pick up on your stress and get scared. During the shot, distract your baby with cooing, touching and smiling. By you being a strong, happy parent your baby will reflect your mood.
- Pain Relievers – There has been some controversy on whether pain relievers can diminish the effectiveness of vaccines, so ask your doctor before your vaccine visit if they recommend giving pain relievers.
- Order in which vaccines are administered – It is suggested in studies that the less painful shot be given first. Studies have found that this should be Diphtheria, polio, pertussis, tenanus (Dtap) and haemophilus (HIB) before the vaccine for pneumococcal.
- Play – Children use play to understand situations, encourage them to take a favorite stuffed animal or doll so they can “practice” giving a shot. Point out how well the animal does in sitting still and getting a band-aid.
- Sibling Power – Enlisting an older sibling to go first and show how getting a shot “should be done.” Of course, this only works if you have a brave kiddo – a screaming big sis will probably scare the little one a bit.
- Give a Little Cough – For older children (or adults for that matter), have them give a strong cough right when shot is being inserted. Researchers don’t know if it’s just a simple distraction or actually reduces pain, but it’s seems effective.
Check out this great resource for things to consider before during and after the immunization visit.
I’m curious, what have you found works to keep your kid calm? Does your screaming baby make you not want to vaccinate?