Jun 28, 2016 1:00 AM

Author: Libby Mitchell


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is dumping FluMist. In the past week a CDC advisory panel concluded the spray is so ineffective at protecting from the flu that it shouldn’t be used for the upcoming 2016-2017 season. The maker of Flu Mist, AstraZeneca, claims they have seen effectiveness levels of 57 percent or better, and vaccine experts are not sure why the mist isn’t working. However, none of that really matters to parents who are now wondering how to prepare their children to face the flu shot needle.

“There is definitely a lot of hype when it comes to those dreaded shots.  Needles strike fear into the hearts of many people, no matter how old,” says Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician with University of Utah Health. “The most important thing a parent can do is to keep calm. If they are freaking out, their kids will follow suit.”

Honesty is important when it comes time to get the flu shot. Explain that it may hurt for a second, and tell them why the shot is important to protect them from the flu. “Ask them to think about how strong their body is going to be and how well the good immune system cells will be able to fight the bad germs this vaccine is protecting them against,” says Gellner. “Kids will be more receptive to shots if they understand why it is important for them to get them.”

However, while honesty is key, don’t give your child too much time to stew over the fact that a shot is coming. That may lead to them getting more worked up – it all depends on the child. “If they are going to be extremely anxious during the entire visit, I recommend telling them at the end of the visit and I often help with breaking the news,” says Gellner. “If they are older kids, or kids that are not too afraid, then being honest with them before the appointment is best.”

Once at the appointment, present a united front with the person who is administering the shot. Don’t let your child cower, kick, or try to hide in your arms – that could end up hurting them more than the shot and may also result in an injury to the person giving the shot as well. Instead help the person giving the shots put your child in the position that is safest for administering shots – while still comforting them. “Talk to your child while they are getting shots, make eye contact with them, let them know you are right there and will give them the biggest hug when they are done because they’ve been so brave,” says Gellner. “I’ve sung to my boys when they had their shots and that helped.”

Taking steps to alleviate the pain from the shot can help as well. You can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen after the fact to reduce inflammation that may cause pain. With some shots the pain, redness and swelling may last for more than 24 hours. “Pain may occur when the medicine in the shot goes into the body and then again over the next few days as the body’s immune system does its job building up antibodies,” says Gellner.

When all else fails, it may be time to make a deal with your child. “One word: bribery,” says Gellner. “It goes a long way with kids. A special treat after the appointment for their ‘bravery’ is always a hit.”

kids health flu shots infectious disease

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