Flu shot season can bring stress and anxiety for many children. UC Davis child life specialist Marisa Martinez helps children cope with painful procedures while they are in the hospital. She offers these six tips to parents and caregivers to make the flu shot (or any vaccine) less scary:
- Start with a comfort position. Cuddle your child while they are sitting on your lap, either facing toward or away from you, leaving one of their arms free. This provides comfort and can ease anxiety.
- Create trust and honesty with your child. Be truthful about what is going to happen when they get their shot so they know what to expect.
- Use ice 30 to 60 seconds before the shot to numb the area of their arm – and give the child the choice of which arm to use.
- Ask them if they want to count to three before their shot – or try bringing some bubbles and have them do some deep breathing by blowing bubbles. See how many bubbles they can blow with one deep breath – and have the shot go in while they are exhaling.
- Give your child the choice of which character band aid to use afterwards. Offer as many choices as possible.
- Reward your child for their hard work – give them a choice of fun options (for example, a delicious treat, an activity they enjoy, an extra story at storytime) so they can decide for themselves.
“The key here is letting children make as many decisions as you can. There’s so much that is out of their control during a flu shot, but by allowing them to make some choices, it will help them feel more in control of their situation,” Martinez said. “The goal of providing choices and setting realistic expectations is to set the child up for success for future medical appointments.”