October 20, 2010

That wasn't so bad, was it?

Tips for taking your child for a seasonal flu needle

Given the word "needle" can inspire fear in the hearts of grown ups, how can you get your child safely immunized for influenza with minimum trauma and tears?

Further Reading
Before their seasonal flu shot
And don't forget . . .
Related links

It starts with being prepared before, during and after the visit to the clinic. Here are some tips to help prepare your child for a seasonal flu shot.

Before coming to the clinic with your child

  1. Tell your child about the procedure before arriving at the clinic. How much lead time depends on your child and their age. Some suggestions are:

Toddlers: At the time of the procedure

Preschoolers: A few hours before the procedure

School-age: One to three days before the procedure

Adolescents: One to two weeks before the procedure, or as soon as you find out about it

  1. Prepare yourself. If you feel calm and relaxed, your child will sense this and act the same way.

  2. Take a familiar toy, teddy bear or blanket with your child - it can provide your child with familiarity and comfort in a situation that isn't familiar or comfortable.

  3. Reassure your child. Make sure your child knows going for a needle is not a punishment and that they did not do anything wrong.

  4. Tell the child they are getting the medicine to keep them healthy and safe. Explain the medicine must go into their arm because it is not the kind you can eat or drink.

  5. Be honest with your child that it may hurt.

  6. Use gentle and simple language that your child will understand without being scary. For example, "You may feel a quick pinch when they put the medicine in your arm. Afterwards, your arm may feel a little tired or sore."

  7. If you are taking more than one child, have the child who is calmer go first as they will set example for the younger or more fearful child.

During the procedure

  • Try to find positions of comfort and support for your child to help them stay still, such as the "hug hold" - child sitting on your lap facing you or sideways while you restrain the child with a comforting hug.

  • When possible, give your child choices, e.g. choosing which arm to have the needle in. Having some control helps. Give your child a time limit during which to make that choice. Other choice examples are: to look or look away; to sing a song or count while it is happening; to choose a particular bandage design/colour afterwards (if offered), which candy or sticker reward (if offered) they would like.

  • Give your child the job of holding still during the procedure. If they have brought a stuffed animal, they can hold still with them.

  • Offer distraction during the procedure, such as singing a song, blowing up an imaginary balloon, counting until it's over, etc. You could offer sensory distraction by rubbing the other arm during the procedure. The child can also "blow the pain away" after the procedure.

Source: Child Life Department, Children's Hospital, Health Sciences Centre, Winnipeg

Before their seasonal flu shot

It is recommended you bring some distractions to the clinic to occupy your child while they are waiting, such as:

  • Colouring sheets, mazes and individual crayons (to keep due to infection control)

  • Word searches for older children

  • Snacks (such as cookies and/or juice - but please do not bring food that contains nuts)

And don't forget . . .

Top four things to remember about your seasonal flu shot:

  • When you or your child are planning to get immunized, it's a good idea to wear clothing like a t-shirt or tank top so your upper arm is accessible. Fall weather can be unpredictable, so plan for an extra layer to prevent the chills.

  • Don't come on an empty stomach. Have a snack before coming, and drink plenty of water.

  • If you or your child has fainted from a shot previously, tell this to the immunizer before they give your shot. They may ask you or your child to lie down while you receive the shot, as this will prevent fainting.

  • Bring your Manitoba health card.

And if you're the one who is uncomfortable with needles, you likely won't have to watch the nurse draw up the vaccine. Look away when you're getting your shot. Take deep breaths. People watch to distract yourself. It lasts only a moment and can have such a lasting benefit, you'll be glad you got the shot, not the flu!

Related links

Protect Yourself from Influenza

Public Health Agency of Canada

A Parent's Guide to Immunization

Helping Your Child with Needle Fear


Get the shot, not the flu!


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