The Flu Shot

January 19, 2017
The Flu Shot


There has been an increase in influenza in the New York area the past 2 weeks.  Getting the flu shot is now more important than ever and is recommended for all children 6 months of age and older.

We know from personal and professional experience that getting the flu shot is an important, but often uncomfortable, task.

Here are our tips for caregivers and healthcare providers:


  1. It is good to tell the truth!
    • “This will hurt for a minute and then we will be all done” is a good way to tell your child what to expect and acknowledge that they will feel pain.
  2. Make contact
    • It can help keep your child feel calm and secure to have them sit on your lap. If they are bigger, holding your hand or facing you (instead of the doctor) can also help.
  3. If you are scared of shots (or needles), try not to show it!
    • Children look to you to see how they should react and to make sure that you feel they are safe. Try to have a relaxed face and look confident that the shot is important and the doctor is a safe and trusted person.
  4. Wait and watch.
    • Try to avoid using acetaminophen ibuprofen after vaccines as new studies show it may lessen the effectiveness of the immune response. Use ice for any local discomfort.
  5. Reward your child with praise.
    • “I am so proud of how you handled that so calmly. You did a great job sitting still and listening to the doctor!”  Make this praise even more powerful by adding a hug or high five.


  1. Know the symptoms.
    • High fever
    • Cough
    • Congestion
    • Sore throat
    • Vomiting
    • Muscle aches
  1. Explain to your patient the benefit of having this shot.
    • Try saying, “This will help keep you healthy and safe from the flu.”
  2. Educate
    • Remind parents that the flu vaccine will not give their child the flu and that normal reactions to the vaccine can include aches, fever and fussiness.
    • So far, this years vaccine seems to be covering the most common strains of flu
  3. Talk them through it.
    • Avoid the words “pinch” and “hurt.” Use “pressure” or “like a bug bite” to make it less scary.
    • Talk through each step as it happens, “First, we will clean the area and it will feel cold…”
  1. A few recommended distraction techniques.
    • While cleaning the area with alcohol:
    • Tell the patient to think of a favorite place or treat
    • Tell the patient to say lollipop or sticker over and over again (and then give one of course!)
    • Squeeze the area where you’ll be giving the shot to stimulate it
    • Ask kids to imagine their favorite character or superhero to help them be brave. Remind them that their brain can help them to handle tough situations.
  1. Give specific praise
    • After the shot try saying, “All done!! I know that was tough but you stayed so still and I am proud of you.” Even if the child is crying, make sure to offer praise for some aspect of the interaction.  Examples of specific praise are staying calm, staying still or calming down quickly after.
    • Try to also praise the caregiver for offering comfort to the child

For more information, visit the CDC website here.