Originally published on E!online.
The word “vaccines” is probably a least favorite for most parents. Not only is there enough controversy around them to make your head spin, but kids hate getting them. No one likes seeing their infants face crumple up into the “what in the hell did you just do to me?” expression before letting out an ear piercing wail as they get bombarded with their first shots. But hey, at least infants don’t remember the ordeal so they aren’t thinking about it afterward or freaking out the next time they see a doctor’s office.
Toddlers, however, are a different story. My daughter is terrified of shots and her behavior resembled that of the kid in The Exorcist the last time I took her in for the vaccines she needed. Even when I made the appointment when she wasn’t around, somehow she knew. That night, she was freaked out and when I asked what was bothering her, she told me “I don’t want to go get a shot.” She is even campaigning to make me promise not to give her “baby brother” (who is on his way) shots.
Ironically, her favorite toy right now is her Doc McStuffins medical kit. She has no problem giving pretend shots to her stuffed animals. We even have discussions each time about how the shots keep the animals from getting sick and how it only hurts for a few seconds, but that has done nothing to ease her fear.
Here are some of my favorite tips to make the process just a little easier.
1. Request Your Favorites
When you make the appointment, don’t hesitate to ask for the person at the doctor’s office who does the best, fastest job. Quicker is better and if, for example, one of the nurses is a little more nervous about trying to inject the screaming Exorcist child, the process is just more drawn out and painful for everyone involved. If you notice your doctor is more efficient, don’t be afraid to ask for her or him specifically when you make the appointment.
2. Don’t Talk About it Too Far Ahead of Time
There is no need for your little one to stress about an upcoming doctor visit. Anticipation makes everything worse. It’s like riding the Tower of Terror at Disneyland. I am so much more scared before the elevator drops than while it’s dropping. Unless she asks, I don’t advertise that we are going to the doctor or getting a shot ahead of time and I don’t arrive at the doctor’s office earlier than I need to, either.
3. . . But Don’t Lie About it
Sure, you don’t want to talk about it too far ahead of time, but if and when your child asks “Am I getting a shot?”, don’t lie. Just calmly explain that yes, they are getting a shot or yes, they will need shots later down the road and try and use the moment to have a simple discussion about why you feel shots are important.
4. Dress Your Child Appropriately
When you make the appointment, be sure and ask where on their body the child will be receiving the shot. I made the mistake of not asking last time and dressed my daughter in a long sleeved shirt. Naturally, the nurses wanted to give her the shots in her arms, but the sleeves were tight and they didn’t roll up far enough when I tried and by the time we’d had that much of a discussion about it, my daughter was already hysterical and clamping her arms to her sides. We ended up doing the injections in the thighs, but the visit would have been so much easier had she just been wearing a short sleeved t-shirt and we could have got right to it!
5. Bring a Distraction
I always make sure to bring a favorite toy and to have a YouTube video my daughter likes queued up on my Iphone for the doctor’s visit. She loves YouTube, but I try and save phone and Ipad time for “emergency” occasions when I really need it, like air travel or a doctor’s visit. If you can hold your child and give them something to look at, blocking their view of the actual needle when the shot is happening, that helps.
6. Dull the Pain
Ask your doctor about the possibility of giving your child some Tylenol before the appointment or applying a topical anesthetic ahead of time to make the actual shot less painful.
7. Plan a Reward
The reward idea didn’t go too far with my daughter before the shot, but I hope the memory of it helps next time around. When we arrived at the doctor’s office and she found out she was getting a shot, I asked her to pick a treat for afterward. Would she like to go get ice cream? Suddenly, she didn’t like ice cream. Would she like a toy? Suddenly, she was over toys. “Would you like a goldfish?” I asked her, secretly cringing inside because, selfishly, the last thing I want is another pet to take care of, no matter how small. Nope, suddenly, she’s not interested in a goldfish. We did end up going to Salt and Straw for giant waffle cones afterward and I hope she remembers that next time we have to go for shots!
8. For Older Kids (4 and up)
Supposedly it helps lessen the pain to cough or exhale (as if you are blowing out a birthday candle) as you get injected. I haven’t tried this one yet, as it’s recommended for older kids, but I certainly plan on it! Anything to make vaccine day easier.
If you have found anything that works like a charm let us know!