Tips for making flu shots easier on kids... and parents

UCLA Health article

Crying, screaming or even trying to run away-these are typical reactions when kids are about to get an injection. 

Unfortunately, kids will probably be dismayed to learn that they will need an extra shot this year since recommendations call for children to receive both a seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine.

"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," said Dr. Lonnie Zeltzer, director of the Pediatric Pain Program at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital. "The key is to be creative and use the right combination of tactics depending on your child's age, the particular procedure being done and the child's fear level."

Tips to minimize the pain associated with getting a needlestick:

1. With young children, parents can bring soap bubbles and blow bubbles during the injections with the parent suggesting they are "blowing away the hurt." 

2. With a crying infant, if the parent places the plastic bubble maker in front of their mouth, as they cry out, they will make bubbles.  "I have seen babies stop crying mid-cry because they were distracted by the bubbles," said Zeltzer. 

3. For older children and adolescents, bubbles may not be as useful, but parents can help the child to breathe out slowly as if he/she were blowing up a big balloon. 

4. Guide the child to use their imagination to experience being somewhere else really fun during the injections, such as at the park or at the beach.  Other distraction ideas include jokes, video-games, stories and music. 

5. Ask your doctor for a prescription for a numbing cream or patch and put on the areas to be injected.  Do this at home before going to the clinic so the medicine has time to work.  Ask the office nurse where she/he plans to do the injections, such the thigh or arm, so that you numb the correct spot. 

6. If your doctor approves, give your child a dose of pain reliever, such as Tylenol, about one hour before the injection.  After returning home, put an ice bag on the injection site to reduce local swelling and pain.

"Finally, do not lie to your child about getting an injection, added Zeltzer.  "No one likes to get poked with a needle, but if you reassure your child that there are ways to make the hurt go away, then you can help them achieve a successful, less painful experience."

Click here to learn more on protecting yourself against the flu from UCLA experts.
UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital, one of the highest-rated children's hospitals in California, is a vital component of UCLA Medical Center, ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the third best hospital in nation and best in the Western United States. Mattel Children's Hospital offers a full spectrum of primary and specialized medical care for infants, children and adolescents. The hospital's mission is to provide state of-the-art treatment for children in a compassionate atmosphere, as well as to improve the understanding and treatment of pediatric diseases. For more information, visit


Media Contact:
Amy Albin
(310) 794-8672
[email protected]

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Media Contact

Amy Albin
(310) 794-8672
[email protected]