Aug 22, 2016

Dr. Gellner: No more flu mist means another shot for your child. How can you help your child prepare for this and other vaccines? I've got some advice today on The Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: You've probably heard that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is dumping FluMist. I know, my kids are disappointed too. But a CDC advisory panel found that the spray is so ineffective at protecting from the flu that it shouldn't be used anymore. Vaccine experts aren't sure why the mist isn't working but none of that really matters to parents who are now wondering how to prepare their children to face the flu shot needle.

There's 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 they are. The most important thing a parent can do is to keep calm. If you're freaking out, your kids will follow suit.

Honesty is most important when it comes time to get any shot. Explain to your child that it may hurt for a second and tell them why the shot is important to protect them. Ask them to think about how strong their body is going to be, and how well the good immune systems cells will be able to fight the bad germs that this vaccine is protecting them against. Kids will be more receptive to shots if they understand why it's 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. They may get more worked up, or they may be cool with a shot, it all depends on the child. And if they are going to be extremely anxious during the entire visit, I recommend telling them at the end of the visit. If they're 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 giving the shot. Don't let your child cower, kick, or 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. Instead, help the person giving the shots put your child in the position that is the safest for administering shots, while still being there to comfort them.

Talk to your child while they're getting the shots. Make eye contact with them. Let them know you're right there and you'll give them the biggest hug when they're done because they've been so brave. I've sung to my boys when they were younger and had their kindergarten shots. That seemed to help.

Taking steps to help with the pain from shots can help as well. Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen but not until after the shot to reduce inflammation that may cause pain. We don't recommend giving anything beforehand anymore since some studies show that blocking the fever response may interfere with the immune system response.

With some shots, the pain, redness, and swelling may last for up to 24 hours. Pain may occur when 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. When all else fails, it may be time to make a deal with your child. One word: bribery. It goes a long way with kids. A special treat after the appointment for their bravery is always a hit.

Announcer: Want The Scope delivered straight to your inbox? Enter your email address at and click "Sign Me Up" for updates of our latest episodes. The Scope Radio is a production of University of Utah Health Sciences.

For Patients