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5 tips for a stress-free immunization experience for children

boy receives flu shot from smiling doctor

By now most parents are well aware of the myriad benefits of annual flu vaccinations for children. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu shots reduced pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admissions by 74 percent between 2010 and 2012.

Yet despite how important these yearly boosters are to improving health and well-being, many children approach getting a flu shot with fear and hesitation. Luckily, there are certain steps you can take as a parent to help calm your child and make getting a shot a more welcomed experience. And, no, not all of these measures require post-shot lollipops.

"Flu shots reduced PICU admission by 74% between 2010 and 2012."

1. Never lie: Some parents will tell their sons or daughters that shots will not hurt, usually as a means to prevent them from crying. Instead, many experts advise telling your child the truth, that there might be some discomfort and a slight pinching sensation but that it will be over in just a few minutes. Better to prepare them for what will actually happen than to simply placate them for a few brief moments.

2. Bring along a comfort item: Many children have a favorite toy or a cherished blanket they they tote around with them almost everywhere. So, why not allow your child to bring said comfort item into the doctor's office? These toys will help the child feel some semblance of familiarity in an unfamiliar situation. Plus, complimenting Mr. Teddy can help the doctor make valuable inroads with the child.

3. Engage your child: Some children may not respond to the use of a beloved toy or blanket. If that's the case, you can find other ways to actually comfort or engage your child. Sing them a song, read a story, hold their hand or stroke their hair. No matter what you do, though, always maintain eye contact. That's the most effective way to show you're right there with your son or daughter.

4. Get a shot yourself: Like children, adults can benefit greatly from an annual vaccination. So, why not make this work for you by getting a shot at the same time as your child? By seeing how you react to the injection, your child may feel less frightened or have a better idea of what shots actually entail. They might even feel the need to comfort you afterward.

"Children who coughed experienced much less pain upon injection."

5. Make them cough: According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, children who were told to cough during a vaccination reported experiencing much less pain upon injection. In fact, pain levels dropped by as much as 40 percent in some cases. Much like being read stories or having their hand held, the faux cough distracts children, causing their minds to shift focus away from the shot itself.

6. Console your child: Sometimes there is no way to prevent an uncomfortable or stressful vaccination. That's especially true since some kids experience allergic reactions following a shot, like rashes or a fever. If that happens, do your best to console children, making sure they get plenty of fluids and using a wet cloth to help reduce any accompanying soreness. Even if they hated the shot, the proper aftercare can convince some children that shots are just a natural part of the health care process.

Another way to ensure a more amicable vaccination experience for your child? Take them to a CareWell Urgent Care location. With hospitals all over the East Coast, CareWell's team of doctors make getting a flu shot as stress-free as possible.

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