Health Matters: Make your child's shots less stressful

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You always want to do what is best for your children. You know about the importance of car seats, baby gates and other ways to keep them safe. You know that one of the best ways to protect your children is to make sure they have all of their vaccinations.

But it's so hard to see your child cry when she gets her shots. In honor of National Infant Immunization Week, I would like to offer some simple steps you can take before, during, and after a vaccine visit to ease the pain and stress of getting shots.

Read about the shots your child will get in advance. The CDC's vaccine webpage has a lot of useful information to help parents understand the importance of on-time vaccination. You can review this information before your appointment, and then, you can ask your child's doctor any remaining questions or concerns you have about vaccines.

It's important to keep track of which vaccinations your child has had. SVMC Pediatrics keeps a record of patients' vaccinations. If you switch doctors, ask your previous doctor to send a copy of medical records, including a vaccination record, to your new doctor's office.

For young children, pack your child's favorite toy, book, blanket, or other comfort item. If the child is breastfeeding, make plans to nurse just after the shot for comfort. Bring a bottle for bottle-fed children.

For older children, be honest. Shots can pinch or sting, but not for long. Remind them that shots help keep them healthy.

As the shot is being prepared and given, distract your child with a toy, a story, a song, or something interesting in the room. Make eye contact with your child and smile, talk softly, or sing. It is very important to hold your child in a firm yet comfortable position. This stresses the child less and also helps the nurse administer properly without scratching the child. As the shot is being given, take deep breaths with an older child to help "blow out" the pain.

After the shot, hug, cuddle, and praise your child. For babies, swaddling, breastfeeding, or a bottle may offer quick relief. Comfort and reassure older children if they cry.

Later that day or evening, make sure your child gets plenty to drink. Place a clean, cool washcloth on the area if you notice redness, soreness, or swelling from the shot. These reactions are usually mild and resolve on their own without needing treatment.

Some children eat less, sleep more, or act fussy for a day after they get shots. If your child runs a fever, try a cool sponge bath. You can also use a non-aspirin pain reliever if your doctor recommends.

If you're worried about anything, call your doctor.

Remember keeping your child up-to-date on vaccines is the best way to protect against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Learn more about childhood vaccines at www.cdc.gov/vaccines/parents or call 800-CDC-INFO (800 232 4636).

— Emily Rice, PA, sees patients at SVMC Pediatrics. For more information, contact Emily.Rice@svhealthcare.org. "Health Matters" is a column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.


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