How to Help Children Prepare for Vaccinations

Child Health, Family Health | 11 days ago

How to Help Children Prepare for Vaccinations

Children tend to have many vaccinations in their younger years- standard immunizations, flu shots and now COVID-19 vaccines as well. And while getting shots is likely not your children's favorite activity, they are necessary to keep children safe and healthy. Here's how parents and guardians can work with their children's pediatrician to help prepare them for vaccinations.

Between their busy immunization schedules, seasonal flu shots and now COVID-19 vaccines, many children will be getting at least one, and possibly several, shots in their near future.

Vaccinations don’t have to be scary or intimidating for a child. There are several ways parents and guardians can help kids feel comfortable and prepared ahead of time. 

We Can Help

Start by reviewing the vaccine schedule in advance of your child’s well visits. Then have a conversation with your child’s pediatrician to get your questions answered and their fears squashed. 

“We’re happy to chat about vaccines leading up to an appointment to ensure everyone is on the same page,” says John Licata, MD, pediatrician at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Charlotte Pediatrics in Steele Creek. “I want to make sure you and your child are comfortable at every phase of their vaccine journey.”

Licata sometimes uses play or make believe to demonstrate for patients what it’s like to get a shot, showing them exactly where they’ll get it in the arm or leg and the neat bandages they can choose from when it’s over. 

Let’s Talk About Shots

Most children receive numerous vaccines to help prevent the spread of deadly diseases such as polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps, chicken pox and now COVID-19. As children get older, they may receive an annual seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine as well. Many children are also vaccinated against HPV.   

Vaccines have a long history of safety and efficacy. 

“I encourage parents to review the evidence regarding the efficacy and safety of vaccines in general and the COVID-19 vaccine specifically,” Licata says. “The FDA would not approve a vaccine if the benefits did not outweigh the risks, and there’s a lot of data and research that go into FDA approval of vaccines for children.”

Benefits of Vaccines

“Both the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine will reduce the severity of the illness if a child does contract the virus,” says Licata. “Neither vaccine can guarantee that a person won’t get infected, but if a vaccinated child contracts the flu or COVID-19, the resulting illness will be much milder.”

Parents who vaccinate their children will be able to rest easier when sending their children to school, allowing them to play sports, interacting in social situations or being out in public.

Busting Vaccine Myths

Despite the fact that vaccines have been widely and successfully used in the U.S. for decades, some myths still persist when it comes to getting vaccinated.

“The myth that the flu vaccine gives someone the flu isn’t true,” says Licata. “Likewise, the COVID-19 vaccine can’t give a person COVID-19. There can be some mild side effects with vaccines, but they’re not related to the person becoming infected with the virus.”

As for myths about other vaccines, such as certain vaccines being linked to autism, Licata says, “The original case series that suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism has been retracted and multiple studies since then have proven that claim to be false. In addition, hundreds of thousands of children have been just fine after receiving the routine vaccines on the recommended vaccination schedule without spacing them out or altering the schedule.”

What to Expect During and After Vaccination

With most vaccines, children (just like adults) can expect some pain at the injection site and some soreness in the area after getting a shot. Most side effects, if they occur, can be easily managed at home with remedies like over-the-counter pain relievers.

When it comes to getting a COVID-19 vaccine, Licata explains, “It shouldn’t be any more painful than the other shots most children have received from the time they were babies. As for side effects, there tend to be limited side effects with the first dose and perhaps some more prominent but short-term side effects from the second dose, third dose or booster shot.” 

Side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine may include soreness, swelling, headache, fever or chills. These are all normal and should reside within a few days.

Lessening the Pain

There are many things parents and guardians can do to ensure vaccinations go as smoothly as possible.

Don’t:

  • Don’t panic if your child panics. Keep calm, provide a distraction and offer positive reinforcement.
  • Don’t force a child physically. You can support your child with a hug or holding hands and letting them squeeze your hand.
  • Don’t scold your child if he or she is afraid. Instead, explain the benefits of the vaccine and offer a reward.

Do:

  • Explain to children that the benefits of vaccines (including COVID-19 and flu vaccines) far outweigh any risks or side effects.
  • Let kids know that a moment of pain is normal. They may feel a pinch or little sting, but it’s minimal and temporary.
  • Normalize vaccines as a part of a well child visit. Prepare the child ahead of time by letting them know to expect a vaccine.
  • Keep a calm demeanor during vaccinations.
  • Provide distraction, like having kids count down, blow hard or do deep breathing, if a child is worried, anxious or fidgeting during the vaccination.
  • Offer a reward, like stickers, toys, books or even a treat (like a lollipop) to provide positive reinforcement after getting vaccinated.
  • Give your child a dose of over-the-counter pain reliever after shots if necessary to relieve any lingering soreness at the injection site.
  • Make sure the child drinks plenty of fluids after receiving a vaccination.
  • Model good behavior by getting your annual flu shot and other necessary vaccines.

 

To learn more about pediatric care at Atrium Health Levine Children’s, visit online

For updates on COVID-19 vaccines and to make an appointment for your child, visit our resource hub.