Shots are every kid’s worst nightmare, but for the past decade, parents have gotten a brief reprieve from making kids brave the needle in order to get a flu vaccine. The nasal flu vaccination, FluMist, supposedly offered kids all the protection of the shot with no pricks, muscle pains or crying. Unfortunately, those magical, needle-free days are over.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently put out a call to pediatricians to stop using FluMist after a federal health committee found the mist is not as effective at preventing people from getting the flu. According to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the nasal vaccines’ effectiveness was about 3 percent last year among kids ages 2 to 17. Meanwhile, injected vaccines had a 63 percent rate of effectiveness. You don’t have to be an expert to see that’s a pretty huge difference.
Flu season can start as early as October, and around 20,000 children are hospitalized each year due to flu complications, so making sure your kids are vaccinated is extremely important. Obviously, most kids aren’t about to calmly stroll into the doctor’s office and roll up their sleeves. That’s why we asked parents to give us their best tips and tricks for surviving the shot experience.
Here are their clever and creative ideas:
“My son is 7, and we just had the flu shot. I got my shot first, and let him hold my hand. He saw how fast it was. The nurse also offered him some cold numbing spray, which helped, and she was incredibly efficient. I told him how brave he was and promised McDonald’s afterward.” — Kristen S.
“Letting my 3-year-old twins ‘practice’ giving me shots with their toy doctor kit really helped them know what to expect before getting their flu shots. They still didn’t love the pinch, but knowing the process helped them stay calm and we got through it with no tears!” — Megan Z.
“I’m not above massive amounts of bribery with my 11-year-old daughter. If this shot will keep her alive, I figure it’s worth all the ice cream in the world.” — Jeanne S.
“I distract them with silliness while it happens, so they are looking at me and trying not to laugh at how crazy their mother is on their right-hand side while the nurse gives them their shots on the left-hand side.” — Kim B.
“My daughter used to wear earbuds playing her favorite song and sing or scream as loudly as she possibly could when it was time for the shot, which was hilarious. Now she’s in college and goes to get her flu shot all on her own! Pretty sure she still wears the earbuds, but she’s grown out of the sing/scream thing.” — Michelle N.
“I made a ‘prize’ bag for each of my kids with a few new, cheap toys in it. My 4-year-old and 5-year-old were more focused on what they’d find in the prize bag than on the actual shot. My youngest still cried for a minute, but not as long as last year when I had nothing.” — Melissa F.
“Bubbles! The pediatrician we had when my twins were very little had bubbles in his office. We would blow bubbles for them. Then, when they got a little older, we’d have them try and blow the bubbles. It’s an excellent distraction.“ — Denise F.
“Call them mosquito bites. That’s what we do in the medical office where I work. Then we give them a little reward for their bravery.” — Mandy M.
“When my daughter got her 5-year-old shots, I made the mistake of being honest about it. As the nurse left the room, my daughter asked where she was going. I replied, “She’s bringing back your shots, sweetness.” Cue the sobs and 18 stages of grief ranging from denial to rage to belligerence. Finally, I changed my approach and started talking about her upcoming birthday and the kinds of gifts she hoped to receive and all the friends she hoped could attend. My mind kept whirring from one detail to another while I thought OMG THIS IS WORKING. So, long story short: Lie and then distract. Also, drink coffee before the appointment.” — Maureen W.