Over the past few years, parents in Alberta have been able to take comfort in choosing the nasal spray over the needle for their kids’ flu vaccine. Not this year.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) has announced it will not be offering FluMist for the 2017-2018 flu season. Unless families want to pay for the spray in the pharmacy, every child in the province will have to roll up their sleeve for a free flu shot.
Samina Ali, a pediatric emergency medicine physician, says needles don’t have to be scary or even painful. She offers a few tips on how to make the process go smoothly for kids.
1. Don’t give them time to get freaked out.
If your child is frightened by injections, don’t tell them about their flu shot until the last minute.
“I think telling [kids] a month in advance that they’re going to have a flu shot… and then they remember the last time they got a needle and it wasn’t a good experience… can actually create a fair bit of stress,” says the University of Alberta physician and professor.
2. Plan ahead to reduce their pain.
Giving two millilitres of sugar drops to babies under 12 months has been shown to reduce pain by 20 per cent during medical procedures.
For older kids, try a numbing cream on their arm like Emla or Maxilene, available for purchase in most pharmacies.
“Emla needs to be applied 60 minutes before a procedure and Maxilene 30 minutes before,” Ali says.
“If you put (the cream) in the area where the needle is going in, it will numb the skin.”
3. Hold your child upright in your lap.
“We know intuitively, if you lay someone down, [they] feel more vulnerable. If you sit them up, they feel more in control. Even young babies can sense that.”
3. Distract, distract, distract.
One of Ali’s favourite strategies is distraction. Up to and during the injection, try breastfeeding, blowing bubbles, playing with a noisy toy, reading or offering your smartphone or tablet.
“This is not the time to limit [screen time],” Ali says. “It’s the time I actually crack it out.”
4. Empower your kids.
Some children might feel better if they feel more in control. Allow them to choose their distraction tool, or even a treat afterward.
According to Ali, anything parents can do now to ease the experience of getting a needle will help their child in the future.
“People who develop needle phobia can actually go on to avoid health care, so they actually don’t come to the doctor when they need to.”
For more information on AHS flu shots, click here.
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