Tips for getting flu shots for the family

Mamas, it’s about that time again — time to get a flu shot before one of your kids gets it and it spreads through the family. October is considered one of the best times to get the shot, with the goal of getting it BEFORE Halloween so you’ll be more protected before cold and flu season ramps up to full speed.

Also, remember that flu shots take about 2 weeks to reach their full effectiveness. At our house, we try to schedule flu shots about mid-October so it’s working well before Halloween, when parties, trick-or-treating and other community events might spread more viruses.

Scheduling flu shots is the easy part. (You can do it online with Walgreens, Walmart, and other pharmacies as well as your pediatrician’s office.) The tricky part is getting it done without a ton of fear and resistance from your kids.

We rounded up some tips on how to reduce anxiety and discomfort about shots from sources including Mayo Clinic, KidsHealth, and Arkansas Children’s which can help make shot day so much easier:

10 Ways to Help Kids on Shot Day

  • Don’t lie about where they’re going or what’s about to happen, but don’t tell them days before it happens. (The day before or an hour before is plenty of advance notice.)
  • Explain why flu shots are so important.
  • Don’t let your own anxiety get high as you head in for the shot because your kid will notice and mirror your anxiety.
  • Use a topical anesthetic spray like this on the arm about 10 to 15 minutes prior to the injection. You can also ask your doctor to give you a numbing patch or cream to use at home before you come to the shot room.
  • Tell your child to let their arm hang loose like it’s a piece of cooked spaghetti.
  • Tell your kid to cough (but not move around) right before and also during the moment when the shot is given. Here’s a study about the “cough trick.” 
  • For younger kids, bring a small bottle of bubbles. Hold the wand for your child and ask them to blow the bubbles during the shot. No bubbles? No problem. You can also use a pinwheel or ask your kid to pretend to blow out candles on a birthday cake. Blowing out will help your child avoid holding his or her breath and deep breathing reduces pain and anxiety.
  • A funny video or favorite cartoon on your phone might help, too.
  • For infants, you can give them a mouthful of sugar solution as they get the shot.
  • After the shot, put an ice bag on the injection site.

Experts have differing advice about whether or not it’s appropriate to promise a treat after a child gets a shot. But from this mama’s perspective, there’s nothing wrong with a little celebration (with a fun event, movie night, etc.) after getting through the shot.