Giving children flu shots is an important, but slightly dreaded, part of any general practitioner or pediatric doctor’s life. While medical programs often focus on the mechanics of a shot, and how best to give one, they do not always focus on how to handle children, and by extension, their parents. As flu season approaches, you may be in the process of ordering flu kits, and getting ready to administer the flu vaccine to a wide range of children. Here are a few ways to make the process more comfortable for everyone, including your littlest patient’s parents.
1. Distract everyone.
When parents get nervous, so do their children. If your children patients are old enough to read, or even understand a picture book, ask them to read the story aloud, or tell the story to their parents. Or keep them occupied with a relatively static game like “I Spy”, or “How Many Do You See”. Initiate the game, but then let the parents and your patient continue it, so that you can focus. This will keep everyone occupied, and shift their attention from the flu shot itself.
2. Be very clear.
Nobody likes nasty surprises. It doesn’t matter how young or old they are. Explain what to expect clearly, slowly, and calmly. This is as much for the parent’s benefit, as it is for the child’s.
3. Reward your patient.
A special bandage or a fun sticker can help take some of the “sting” away from the experience. Congratulate your child patients on being brave, and make sure their parents acknowledge their bravery, as well. Reinforcing the experience as a positive one, will make the next round of flu shots easier.