7 Ways to Soothe Kids Getting Vaccines

Distraction Helps; Excessive Reassurance Can Backfire

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on May 09, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

May 9, 2007 -- Got a baby or young child who's scheduled for vaccinations? A new study offers tips on preparing and soothing kids getting shots.

The tips come from experts including Neil Schechter, MD, of the University of Connecticut's medical school.

Here is their advice on preparing children for immunization:

  • Kids who are more than 2 years old should be prepared shortly before the shot. Tell them what will happen, how it will feel, and why it's important.
  • Babies up to 6 months old may be soothed by putting a little sugar water on their pacifier right before the shot.
  • Anesthetic creams may not be appropriate for all kids but should be considered for children who are anxious or fearful about getting shots.

Schechter's team also has tips on what parents should do while the shot is being given:

  • Be in the room with the child.
  • Distract the child based on the child's age and temperament. Distraction techniques may include story telling, reading to the child, and deep breathing.
  • Be matter-of-fact, supportive, and nonapologetic.
  • Don't overdo reassurance. Excessive reassurance can actually upset children.

"Although it seems counterintuitive, excessive parental reassurance, empathy, and apologies might increase distress, whereas humor and distraction tend to decrease distress," write Schechter and colleagues.

Parents might also want to keep in mind that long needles may actually deliver less pain.

"Although it would seem intuitive that the shortest needle with the thinnest gauge would produce the least trauma and pain, this does not seem to be the case," write Schechter and colleagues.

They note that "a number of studies support the contention that longer needles, which are more likely to penetrate muscle than are shorter ones, cause less pain and fewer adverse effects."

Their recommendations appear in the May issue of Pediatrics.

  • How do you make shots easier for your baby? Talk about it on WebMD's "Parenting: 1-Year-Olds" message board.
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SOURCE: Schechter, N. Pediatrics, May 2007; vol 119: pp e1184-e1198.

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