How to prepare your child for a vaccination appointment

A parents' guide to the Dos and Don'ts when getting young ones inoculated

How to prepare your child for a vaccination appointment

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Vaccines can cause some pain and anxiety for children of all ages. This pain may cause your child to develop a fear of needles or other medical procedures. Fortunately, there are many strategies that can be used before and during the immunization appointment to help reduce pain and anxiety.

So whether it is for the flu, another childhood vaccine or to prevent COVID-19, use these tips for a more positive immunization experience for you and your child.

Prepare your child before the visit

Children are very aware of the emotions of their caregivers. Although immunizations may be stressful for you, try to be calm during the appointment and when talking about immunization with your child. Use a matter-of-fact, supportive approach.

Toddlers and young children:

In general, toddlers and young children over 2 years of age should be informed about the vaccine shortly before the clinic visit or appointment. When you are discussing the vaccine with your child:

DO:

  • Try to be calm even though you may be nervous about your child’s immunizations. Your child is very sensitive to your emotions.
  • Speak in an even, soft tone of voice.
  • Answer questions honestly and choose words that lessen anxiety – for example, “you may feel pressure, squeezing, or poking”, instead of words like “pain, hurt, or sting.”
  • You can say, “You need the vaccine to stay healthy. The medicine will be put in your arm with a needle. You will feel a quick poke.”

DO NOT:

  • Use words that focus the child’s attention on the needle, such as “It will be over soon, and you will be okay.”
  • Give false reassurance, such as “It won’t hurt.” See “do” section above for suggested answers to the question, “Will it hurt?”
  • Apologize — for example, “I am really sorry you have to go through this.”

Why it works: Your child is sensitive to your language and tone. If you speak positively about vaccines, your child is more likely to feel positive about it as well.

Consider using numbing creams and patches: These products ease the feeling of pain by blocking pain receptors in the skin and should be applied about one hour before the appointment. These can be purchased without a prescription from most pharmacies. Supervise your child after you apply the product so that they don’t accidentally eat the cream or patch. For specific information on where to apply numbing creams or patches, ask your health care provider.

Comfort your child at the appointment

Use these tips to comfort your child at the appointment.

Children of all ages

Comforting restraint: Cuddle your baby or child firmly in your lap in a seated position.

Why it works: Being held close to you calms your child and helps keep legs and arms still so vaccines can be given safely. Sitting upright helps children feel more secure and in control. Ask the health care provider for examples of upright positioning.

Distraction: Use bubbles, a pinwheel or a squeaky, light-up or musical toy to distract your child immediately before and during the vaccination. Ask older children questions about something they are excited about. Older children can also use books, listen to music, or play video games to distract themselves.

Why it works: Research shows that the part of the brain that processes pain is less active when children are distracted during immunizations.

Children 3 years of age and older:

Deep breathing: Have your child focus on blowing out during the vaccine injection. Ask your child to:

  • pretend to blow bubbles
  • blow out a pretend candle
  • imagine blowing a pinwheel or party blower

Why it works: Deep breathing triggers the body to relax its stress response. It also serves as a distraction.

This article was reprinted courtesy of ImmunizeBC.ca.


Related Read: Why parents should have kids vaccinated