Address the Anxiety of Getting Your Family Flu Shots
Oct 15, 2012

Smiles in abundance, even after their shots.

As a parent, I know how important it is to get my children vaccinated in order to protect them from serious and sometimes deadly preventable diseases.  And contrary to what my teenagers may think, I don’t really enjoy seeing my kids in pain.  Which is why I make sure they are vaccinated according to the recommended schedule – to actually spare them from the pain and dangers of disease.  But, that means they occasionally have to endure the quick pain of a needle in the arm or leg.  So, as a compromise, when it comes time for their annual influenza vaccine, I allow my children to get the FluMist, an inhaled vaccine, rather than the injection.
Unfortunately, this year that will not be the case.  We can’t seem to locate a doctor, clinic or pharmacy in our area that accepts our insurance and offers the flu mist.  So, when I announced that we will be getting flu shots this year, my children seemed a bit surprised, and not at all excited.
Fortunately, I discovered this blog post, entitled How to Prepare Your Child for Getting a Flu Shot, that reminded me of a few things that I typically do when bringing my children in for their regularly scheduled vaccinations.  The author elaborates on specific ways that parents can help lessen the anxiety of shots by following these simple suggestions:

Educate and Explain

While reminding us to keep our explanation age-appropriate, the suggestion is that by “Helping your child understand why a flu shot is important, how it protects him from contracting an illness that could become very serious, and why the flu is dangerous can reduce some of his reluctance to be vaccinated.”

Be Honest

I must say that I’m typically pretty frank with my children.  Yes, the shot may cause some brief pain, but let’s also acknowledge that it’s a quick pinch and by the time you say “Ouch” it will be over.  My kids have heard me say this so often that one time, my five-year old daughter even laughed afterward saying “Mom, it happened so fast that I didn’t even get to say ouch this time.”

Don’t Minimize Your Child’s Fears

The article reminds us that by telling your child there’s nothing to be afraid of, or that he’s being silly, doesn’t change how frightened he is.  Rather the advice given is to make an effort to be sympathetic about your child’s fears and to help him manage that fear.

Bring a Diversion

I am typically my child’s best diversion by making funny faces or telling silly jokes.  Not that they think  the jokes are funny, but when they get annoyed at me they forget that someone is about to put a needle in their arm.  The article also suggests other ways that parents can use electronic devices to divert attention during the shot.

Practice Deep Breaths

This technique got me through the pain of five natural labors so I certainly agree that it can help a child get through the anxiety of a shot.  The author suggests that ‘these exercises can also prove to be useful tools for managing stress and fear in everyday situations, making them ideal for children that struggle with excessive anxiety on a regular basis.”

Consider a Treat After the Appointment

Sure they typically get a sticker, but that doesn’t always cut it for the older kids.  Since I’m usually out running errands anyway, I typically treat my kids to something I know they will enjoy, like a picnic in the park, a stop at the library to pick up the new book they wanted, or a quick milkshake on our way home.
Certainly, what works for one child or one family may not be the best tactic for someone else.
take up to two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection, it is suggested that families get vaccinated early in the fall.  The most important thing is that we don’t let our own fears and anxieties as parents stand in the way of keeping our kids healthy and getting them vaccinated.  For more information on flu symptoms, treatment, prevention and vaccination, be sure to visit Flu.gov.
Additionally, one of the best ways to help ease a child’s fear is to be a good example ourselves. So why not make a plan to get yourself vaccinated as well?  Not only will you be protecting yourself, your family and your community from the flu, but your actions will serve to remind our children how important preventive health is to us all. Even if it requires a little bit of temporary pain.
If you should have any additional tips or suggestions for easing the anxiety of shots, feel free to share them in the comments below.  


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