Making Vaccination Doctor Visits Easier on Kids

A mom puts a facemask on her son.
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Vaccines save lives and help your little one enjoy a healthy childhood and beyond. But trips to the doctor for shots can be stressful for children — and parents. Here are some helpful tips on how to make doctors’ visits easier on the whole family.

Distract Your Child

Keeping your child at ease during their doctor visit (as much as possible) will lead to a smoother vaccination. A few ideas for comforting and distracting them before and during their shots are:

  • Give your child a new toy or let them bring a favorite toy
  • Play “I Spy”
  • Read a book
  • Play a video on your phone
  • Sing a song together

These quick methods can help take your child’s mind off of the needle so they don’t have quite as much time to be upset before their shot.

Numb the Skin

Another way to reduce the stinging or bruising feeling of shots is to numb your child’s skin. Your doctor may approve the use of topical creams, like EMLA cream, an hour before the appointment to ensure the skin is numb. Or, you can use a small ice pack for a few minutes before the shot to help prevent pain.

Stay Calm

Children look to their parents to know how to feel. If you’re dwelling on the shots before the appointment or talking about how you dread their reaction, they’ll likely act more scared than they would if you remained calm.

In fact, don’t mention the shots at all to your child unless they ask first. If they do ask, don’t lie. After all, you’ll need them to trust you for future visits. If you lie to them, they’ll grow more reluctant with each visit.

During the appointment, talk to your child calmly, but don’t overpromise. Parents sometimes tell their kids it won’t hurt. And, since that’s not always true, it won’t help your child with future shots. Instead, tell them it will be quick.

Relax Those Muscles

If your child’s muscles are tense, shots can hurt worse. You can help kids relax by telling them to blow bubbles or to cough once before and once after their shot. This not only distracts them, it can help relax their muscles so the shots don’t hurt as much.

Apply Gentle Pressure

To help take your child’s mind off the needle stick and to relieve any stinging sensation, lightly rub the skin surrounding the injection area. This may help comfort little ones and alleviate soreness later.

Give Your Child Ibuprofen When Needed

Before you leave the office, talk with your doctor about what to do if your child experiences any side effects like pain, soreness, swelling or fever. For some vaccinations, your doctor may recommend using ibuprofen.

Offer Some Praise

When it’s all said and done, let your child know you’re proud of them for getting their shots. Offer a big smile and hug so they know it’s all over.

You can also help older kids understand the important role vaccinations play in protecting their health as well as the health of the community. Knowing what could happen without this protection — and how their shots help keep others healthy, too — may take a little bit of the sting out of getting a shot.

Sweeten the Deal

Some studies show that offering a sugar solution or pacifier dipped in sugar solution can help soothe your baby after getting shots. Ask your doctor what he or she recommends.

For older children, a lollipop before their shots might provide some sweet distraction — or be a welcome reward afterward.

A Kid-Friendly Physician Matters

The expert pediatricians at AdventHealth know how to care for your little ones with laughter and positivity. And, our physicians and nurses work with parents to make doctors’ visits as easy as possible on the whole family. Learn more about our children’s care services.

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