Your child’s first years of life are filled with numerous visits to the Doctor’s Office for routine vaccinations.
While there isn’t much you can do to prepare your child when they’re young, as they get older, many children become curious about the “pokes” they receive at the office. So here are some helpful tips to help navigate these questions and take care of their “ouchies” post visit.
Before the Visit
Pack a favorite toy, stuffed animal, or book that may give your child comfort during the visit.
It may be beneficial to educate your child the night before the visit on the shots they’ll be getting. If your child is anxious prior to visits, speaking with her the night before may allow her to process and be more aware of what her visit entail. An opportunity for your child to accompany you to a doctor’s visit while you get an updated vaccination may ease her fears when it’s her turn to get a shot. Some families read books on the topic, or watch Doc McStuffins or the Daniel Tiger episode on visiting the doctor. Practicing with a toy doctor kit can be helpful too.
For some children, however, talking about it beforehand may make it worse! You know your child best. If you think talking about it ahead of time will make it harder to get him to the visit, only give him information if he asks. And, of course, always tell him the truth. If he asks, “Am I getting shots?,” it’s fine to say either, “We’ll have to ask the doctor” or “Yep, but it will help you stay healthy! It will be really quick, and I will be there the whole time.” If he doesn’t ask, it’s ok to wait until the visit to let him know.
As children get older, they’re more sensitive to shots and have a better understanding of what’s to come at their visit. As a parent, you can remind the child at home that the “pinch” won’t hurt for long, and that only the site of injection may be sore after. Avoid telling scary stories or making threats about getting shots to the child; this may just increase their fear. Remind your child that getting vaccinations helps to protect them against “bad germs” that can make them really sick!
Before the Shots
If you have questions about the vaccines your child will receive, please ask! We’re more than happy to answer any questions you may have and to provide additional information. In each exam room, there’s a helpful sheet that can be copied for your reference.
For babies and younger children, the following things may make the vaccination easier on your child:
- Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing; or talking softly
- Smile and make eye contact with your child; let her know that everything is okay
- Comfort your child with a favorite toy, stuffed animal, blanket, or book.
For older children and adolescents, the following may make the shots easier:
- Encourage your child to take deep breaths
- Point out interesting things in the room, or in a book, that may help create distractions
- Engage your child by telling him a story or joke.
- Comfort your child by allowing him to hold your hand for support.
- Support your child if he cries, and reassure him that the “stick” and “ouchie” are only temporary
After the Shots
Sometimes children can experience mild reactions such as pain at the injection site, rash, or a mild fever. These reactions are common and should subside soon. To help alleviate the symptoms:
- Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce soreness and swelling in the areas where the shot was given
- If your provider approves, a non-aspirin pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be given for the shots and discomfort.
- Make sure your child stays hydrated with plenty of liquids.
If you have concerns, or if symptoms do not resolve within a few days (which is very rare), just call us in the office, and we’ll be happy to help.
Dr. Amy Maddalena, a Kids Plus Doc since 2006, teaches the Expectant Parent Orientation class at our Pleasant Hills Office.
Rachel Fultz spent a rotation at Kids Plus as a PA Student from Slippery Rock University.