The BYU study was designed to ask parents why their young children were behind. The leading reason given was fear of the immunization. Either fear of pain by the child, or concern of parents that had to “inflict” this on their children.
Lance Madigan, Public Information Officer for the Utah County Department of Health talks about immunizations on Studio 5.
An immunization shot does not need to be stressful for children. With a little preparation, parents can help alleviate a child’s anxiety when receiving immunizations.
Prepare Ahead! Reinforce ahead of time that the doctor’s office is a nice place, and the doctors and nurses are there to help kids just like police officers or firefighters.
Inform the Child Ahead of Time, but not too far ahead. The day of the immunizations, tell children under the age of 7 about the immunization appointment about one hour beforehand. A longer “countdown” may cause extra anxiety. Some children respond well to such things as “be brave” or “it will only hurt a minute.” Others don’t. You know your child and what helps them deal with fear and pain.
Don’t add to the anxiety. Children can sense fear in parents. Remind them (and YOURSELF!) that it will be a moment of pain, but it will help to prevent children from getting sick. Be a comfort to your child … don’t add to their anxiety.
Distraction in the Waiting Room. You can help your child focus on something else by singing, using humor, listening to music, watching TV, reading, or blowing bubbles.
When the Time Arrives. Get down to the child’s eye level and be honest in telling them that the shot will hurt a little, but the pain won’t last long. It is important that you, as the parent, remain calm and in control while in the exam room.
Distraction during or after the shot: Bring along a stuffed toy or blanket for your child to hold on to during the immunization. Hold your child, make eye contact, and be calm. If you feel it will help, let the child watch the needle piercing the skin if they want to. However, you can also act as the focal point if the child decides to look away.
After the Shots. For younger children, bottles and/or breast-feeding can sooth the initial fear and pain. Reward your child afterward! Praise them and go somewhere special after to celebrate such as getting an ice cream cone or to a special family member or park.