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How to help your child with immunizations

Pop Rocks candy - that is what my 90's mom treated me to after a vaccine injection. I don't know why that candy, but now I do know why the vaccines. As a child, my mom witnessed a community of children her age in Central America who survived because my grandfather had vaccinated them against Pertussis (whooping cough). This is one of many reasons why the World Health Organization celebrates World Immunization Week. The goal of World Immunization Week from April 24-30 is to highlight the need for all to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against disease.

In today's blog post, we hope to equip you to help your child or pediatric patient with tools to have a more positive experience when getting an injection. Besides a little treat afterward, what else can you and your child do to make injections more bearable?

1. Set yourself up for success with honesty, not making promises about what may happen or not. You can learn more about how to explain vaccines to children in this article.

2. Make a coping plan and follow it. This means talking with your child about what they think will help; options like what to do to stay distracted or watch, sitting together or holding a hand, etc., and it can include looking forward to a hug and a treat or outing afterward. Deep breathing and other relaxation methods leading up to, during, and while recovering are very helpful.

  • For young children and for babies it is helpful to make a coping plan for yourself as the caregiver too. This also can include practicing deep breathing and considering your comfortability with being involved in comfort positioning or in being ready to soothe your child during or after.

3. Address the sensation itself - rather than the word hurt, consider softer language like "some children say it feels like a quick pinch or poke." You may want to advocate for your doctor's office or clinic to offer pain management tools like Buzzy.

We've rounded up a few resources that are excellent from The Emotional Safety Initiative of the Association of Child Life Professionals:

Finally, if you are concerned your child may have a needle phobia, check out this post from Children's Hospital Orange County.

The support and guidance of a child life specialist can help with making effective coping plans and addressing persistent fears around medical experiences, including vaccines.

If you or your child want to be prepared or are experiencing stress in facing upcoming vaccines or a booster, we are here for you. Book a session with us today.

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