UPDATE (January 8, 2012): This post is not about common vaccines like the flu shot or childhood vaccines. We are not promoting routine vaccines, nor do we sell them, or have anything to do with the industry. This post is written for travelers who are concerned about protecting themselves from things like rabies and typhoid.
Vaccinations are often a necessary part of traveling or living abroad. They are never pleasant, but some things can make them easier to take. Here are some things that helped us:
Becoming Superheroes (superheroes don’t freak-out in front of their kids)
Before we moved to Ecuador we checked out the Center for Disease Control to see what types of things we would need to be vaccinated against. We did this as a family so our daughter would understand the importance of the vaccinations.
When she understood clearly what the consequences could be if we didn’t get them, she jumped on board and was ready to become a member of the “Super Germ Fighting Family.” Joking around about gaining superhero germ fighting powers from the vaccinations, helped keep things light. Once we all had the same focus and determination we made the initial appointment with a travel clinic.
Often the way we as parents react to things determines the way our children react to them. Sometimes we react irrationally to situations, and that reaction is out of our control. If we realize that of ourselves, we can give our kids a wonderful gift by enabling them not to have a similar reaction.
It might mean leaving the room to freak out, or making separate appointments. Appointments where one spouse (or a really close friend) that does not have a problem with needles, goes in with the child. And the other spouse makes a separate appointment, going in with another supportive adult.
Focusing Past the Needle
Before we went to the actual pin-poking appointment we did some things to help ease the anticipation of the appointment. We told Drew that we would take her to one of her favorite places right after the appointment. This gave her the power to focus past the appointment to the fun she would have.
How To Focus Past the Needle:
- Bring a favorite (food or drink) treat to enjoy right after the needle.
- Wrap up a small surprise gift, which you tell your child they can unwrap right after they have the needle.
- Make a “Super Germ Fighter” certificate to give to your child right after. Make sure to put lots of shiny stickers on it.
- Promise a trip to one of their favorite places (restaurant, bookstore, park . . .) right after.
- Make a check list chart of all the vaccinations needed and promise a tempting reward once all check marks are received.
What About The Pain?!
Often the fear of the pain from a needle is worse than the actual pain, so it’s important to be honest about the it. We told Drew that it was going to hurt, but that it would be over really fast. That it would be OK to cry, and that we might cry too. We also told her that some needles hurt more than others, and maybe the one she was about to get would not hurt much at all. Talking to her about this before the appointment helped her prepare herself in a realistic way.
Some things can be done to ease the pain as well, here are a few suggestions:
How To Ease the Pain
- A patch or topical anesthetic cream can be applied 30 to 60 minutes before. (Make sure on the initial visit to the clinic that you ask where the injection site will be)
- Look away. It always helps me.
- Be relaxed, especially making sure the muscles in the given arm are relaxed. Bringing along something to listen to (some favorite music or a story) could really help with relaxation. Our daughter loves having Audible stories with her.
- Make sure the one getting the needle sees smiling faces looking back at them.
- Talk about anything but the needle, like the fun things you are going to do after your appointment. Telling them everything will be OK, or about how brave they are while they are sitting there could make it worse, causing them to focus on things not being OK, and them not being brave.
- Go first. If you don’t have a problem with needles, it could really help if your child sees you take your shot with class.
As it turns out Drew didn’t have much of a problem with the needles at all, she didn’t even cry. The treat afterward really helped her, as did the anticipation of going to one of her favorite places to hang out – Chapters bookstore. Made for one of our cheapest holidays ever.
We hope some of the suggestions in this post will help you and your family as well. Do you have any tips or tricks to add? Please share in the comments.