How to take sting out of flu shot (sorry, kids, FluMist not an option)

Parents and children may be in for a surprise when it comes to getting a flu shot this fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced it does not recommend the nasal spray flu vaccine (FluMist) in the 2016-2017 flu season.

The decision was based on studies finding the nasal spray vaccine performed poorly compared to the standard flu shot during the past three years, according to the CDC.

With FluMist a favorite for needle-phobic kids, parents have no choice this year but to go with a traditional flu shot. The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for people 6 months and older. 

Dr. Mark Kishel, a longtime pediatrician and a senior clinical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, said while there is an aversion to needles in everyone, and the nasal vaccine had been recommended for children over the age of 2, evidence now shows that the nasal vaccine does not work at all.

Pediatricians everywhere will use various techniques to help children relax and make the flu shot immunization process as painless as possible. One new technique Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, is using this flu season is a “bee” that has cold pack wings and a buzzing body that attaches to a child’s arm and helps take the sting out of getting a shot. It’s a product developed by an Atlanta pediatric emergency doctor, Dr. Amy Baxter. (See sidebar for more on the product.)

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Dr. Melissa Winterhalter, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said younger children ages 2-6 getting flu shots also respond well to distraction techniques: videos, singing, music, toys, tablets and bubbles.

Older children, she said, respond well to an explanation about the importance of the flu shot and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and talking about a favorite place. Older kids, she said, often like to choose which arm to use for the shot.

Meanwhile, Kishel said he recommends the following five tips from the CDC for helping take a little one’s mind off the sting from a traditional flu shot, as well as strategies for older kids who have an aversion to needles:

  • Pack a favorite toy or book, and a blanket that your child uses regularly to comfort your child.
  • Be honest with your child. Explain that shots can pinch or sting, but that it won’t hurt for long.
  • Engage other family members, especially older siblings, to support your child.
  • Avoid telling scary stories or making threats about shots.
  • Remind children that vaccines can keep them healthy.

 

MORE: 8 tips for getting your kids on a back-to-school sleep schedule

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