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Take the Sting Out of Your Child's Flu Shots

Bubbles and relaxation exercises can help cut the pain, experts say

SUNDAY, Oct. 18, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Even many adults want to run away from an injection, so it's no surprise that children will try to flee, scream, cry and make a scene when it's time for flu shots this year.

"The good news is that there are several techniques that parents can use to positively impact their child's experience when getting a needlestick -- whether it's a flu shot, a childhood vaccine, or blood work," Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer, director of the Pediatric Pain Program at Mattel Children's Hospital of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a university news release.

Pediatricians recommend the following ways to distract kids while getting a shot:

  • Use soap bubbles to distract babies and younger children. Parents can hold a plastic bubble-making wand in front of their child's mouth and let them "blow away the hurt." For crying babies, making a bubble will give them something to focus on besides the pain.
  • Try relaxation exercises. Tell older kids and teens to breathe out slowly as if they are blowing up a big balloon. Or ask children to use their imaginations to create a vision of a fun place like the beach or park.
  • Apply a numbing cream or patch. Ask your doctor for a prescription and apply it to your child before you go to the office. Make sure you put it in the place where the shot will go -- the arm or the thigh.

More information

To learn about kids and the flu, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles, Health Sciences, news release, September 2009
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