How to Take The Pain Out of Vaccinations

posted: 02/03/16
by: Courtney Reimer
picture of a girl getting vaccinated

No matter the age of your child, getting shots is always going to be a somewhat painful experience. But there are some tricks and tactics you can employ to help ease that pain a bit.

  • Communicate the plans in advance. That way you don't have surprise coupled with pain. You can even use a pretend doctor kit to help prepare them for the shot so they don't get scared when they see all of the strange gadgets.
  • Add a treat to the experience. Probably one of the oldest tricks in the book, but there's no harm in creating a positive association with a painful one -- e.g., shots mean ice cream afterwards. If you don't want to involve sweets, you can promise them a trip to their favorite playground, an extra book before bed, etc.
  • Hold them during the shot. This is particularly handy when the shot-recipient is a baby, and in my experience most doctors will accommodate it if you ask. If your kid is too big to hold, you can almost certainly at least hold their hand during the process.
  • Do multiple shots at once. When our first pediatrician in Brooklyn would take all three syringes in her hand and get ready to plunge them into our baby's thigh all together, we would cringe -- but then we learned the pain of several shots in a row. See if your pediatrician will do it Brooklyn-style.
  • Master the art of distraction. This works particularly well with babies -- bring along a favorite toy or lovey -- but if you can find a way to get them to look away and/or focus on something happier, the good news is they won't be squeamish as the doctor prepares the shots.
  • Try the "cough trick". According to a New York Times article, coughing before and/or during a shot triggers a slight rise in blood pressure that makes it more difficult to perceive pain.
Whatever methods you try, know that there likely will be tears or a screech -- but that it will all be over about as quickly as it happened.