GringosAbroad Ecuador

How To Take Vaccines Like a Superhero (Or at Least Ease The Pain a Little)

Posted in: Expat Hacks, Living in Ecuador, Our Perspective

Note: 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.

5 Ways to Focus Past the Needle:

  1. Bring a favorite (food or drink) treat to enjoy right after the needle.
  2. Wrap up a small surprise gift, which you tell your child they can unwrap right after they have the needle.
  3. Make a “Super Germ Fighter” certificate to give to your child right after.  Make sure to put lots of shiny stickers on it.
  4. Promise a trip to one of their favorite places (restaurant, bookstore, park . . .) right after.
  5. Make a check list chart of all the vaccinations needed and promise a tempting reward once all check marks are received.

vaccines-hand-needleWhat 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

  1. 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)
  2. Look away.  It always helps me.
  3. 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.
  4. Make sure the one getting the needle sees smiling faces looking back at them.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

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.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with GringosAbroad.

27 comments… add one
  • Jon May 20, 2014, 9:14 am

    Although I didn’t take any vaccinations before coming here to Cuenca last month I did get plenty of needles stuck in me when I was at Santa Ines hospital last week with Salmonella poisoning. What helped me as they “fished” for my dihydrated veins was “mind over matter”. I just kept telling myself “it’s not that bad, it’s no big deal” until my mind believed itself. The same technique works when needing to jump off a tall cliff into a fast river by the way.

    • Bryan Haines May 20, 2014, 8:53 pm

      Sounds like you’ve had a rough time. Mind over matter definitively works, sometimes.

  • Richard Jan 17, 2012, 10:28 am

    On an earlier date, I provided a link to recommended vaccines for U.S. citizens traveling or living in Ecuador. My apologies to my Canadian friends, here is a link to recommended vaccines for Canadian citizens travelling or residing in Ecuador.

    Please check out #6 Travel Health in the Ecuador Travel Report.

  • Richard Jan 16, 2012, 5:06 pm

    Posted earlier the link for which vaccines U.S. citizens traveling or livng in Ecuador should receive…apologies to my Canadian friends, here is the link for recommended vaccines for Canadians travelling or residing in Ecuador:

    Please check out #6 Travel Health under the Ecuador Travel Report

  • Todd Jan 16, 2012, 2:05 pm

    Love your site and all your articles/blogs except for this one. See:

    • Bryan Haines Jan 16, 2012, 2:18 pm

      Hey Todd, thanks for the feedback. As we’ve noted numerous times in the post and in the comments, we aren’t recommending vaccines (either specific or in general). But the fact is, many people who travel overseas (especially to South America) get vaccinated. Somehow a post on how to take a needle became a debate on the safety of the vaccines themselves. Everyone has the individual responsibility to ensure the safety of specifics – be it vaccines or the destinations themselves. For example, we were vaccinated for many things, but we didn’t get the Yellow Fever shot, because of the risk that we read. Because of this, we have yet to travel to the jungle.

      The danger is just as high quoting ad driven “natural news” sites as it is to quote from CDC or WHO. Both have agendas and interests aside from simply helping people. Both are subject to lobbying and financial influence. To think otherwise – about either – would be naive.

      I appreciate your input and hope you’ll continue to share here.



  • Don Gallagher Jan 9, 2012, 5:05 pm

    Accidently deleted your blog on getting kids to not be afraid of needles. This response relates to that. Find a local diabetic, which I am, who can reassure anybody that I take 5 needles a day and really don’t care whether the medication comes via a needle or a pill. In fact if I have an infection I will ask the doctor for an injection because it acts faster. Needles are a nuisance but that’s all they are. An ice cube applied over the injection site just before will numb the area. That’s what some plastic surgeons use when injecting botox.

  • Richard Jan 9, 2012, 11:37 am

    For those U.S citizens interested in which vaccines are recommended or required for travel to Ecuador, please refer to the CDC’s website:

  • John Jan 7, 2012, 10:39 am

    I am not for any vaccines flu shots etc. As many Doctors around the country either known or are waking up to the many bizarre poisons and materials that are in fact in many of the vaccines as promoted by the largest drug manufactures.What are they you as thermisol(mercury) a prominent component in most all vaccines, as well as severe reactions or death in some people. ABORTED BABIES -yes I was shocked to learn this too.Resses monkeys,rats/mice,as well as other animals,many many long chemical names to numerous for me to write,that the humane body simply was not designed by God to take in these poisons by s shot/injection.And since when does one shot e.g..flu shot FIT ALL peoples–who made the MEDICAL CARTEL ESTABLISHMENT-god???Remember, your doctor is trained not to think,your doctor is a zombie who prescribes to you what he was trained to do in M-E-D-I-C-A-L-S-C-H-O-O-L.He/she is NOT a MEDICAL RESEARCHER.Your doctor was spoon fed medical information in medical school on what the medical cartel wants your doctor to learn–namely -DRUGS,RADIATION,SURGERY. I am not a doctor.But do think that if ecuador has dangerous viral problems lurking in paradise ,whether bad water,Vampire Bats and many many many Bat spices swamped all over south America,dysentery,etc. I would have to believe some where out their a INDEPENDENT MEDICAL RESEARCHER not a INSTITUTIONALLY CONTROLLED RESEARCH facility can find or discover a material weather it is a herb,botanical,or safe drug with NO side effects.But the present day Cartel wants you to suffer and take drugs on your prolonged sickness,and after they have EXHAUSTED all your financial resources and they can do no more YOU are ready for the bone yard IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY and NOT TRUTH and NOT GENUINE LOVE OF THE PERSONS BEST INTERSTS AT HEART STOP BEING A LAB RAT MY FRIENDS. —–Please go to best sites on the internet for TRUTH on a wide range of subject matter. see-see. http://www.RENSE.COM BRASSCHECK TV.COM FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE TV.COM DAVID DUKE.COM

    • RG Jan 8, 2012, 5:20 pm

      Good comment John. On top of the web site you mentioned, is also a good source of info re this.

  • Rick Kamerzell Jan 7, 2012, 9:36 am

    What vaccines are recommended for South America, particularly Ecuador?

  • Ed Weidner Jan 7, 2012, 9:09 am

    Hi Bryan and Dena and Family- Happy New Year to you and all of your family. I agree with Doc, Sanders about staying healthy,working out,eating an intelligent diet etc,.-I do NOT agree about the vaccination issue. Thank God for Jonas Salk and the polio vaccine!! I am Curios though-What vaccinations did you get and are they optional or required-Enjoy all of your info-1st trip to Cuenca in March. Thanks Ed w

  • John Himbert Jan 7, 2012, 7:15 am

    Are you aware of the damages to health and life that vaccines
    are contributing? Most of the so called viruses are created in
    the labs of the giant pharmaceuticals who then (SCARE) you into
    then taking their antidote to “protect” you from the very thing that they have created. This is BIG BUSINESS people and is in no way designed to protect you. This stuff is toxic designed only to hurt you. I have taken NO VACCINES of any kind for the past 20 years and cannot remember the last time
    that I even had a cold etc. Did you know that autism and auto-
    immune disorders in CHILDREN are causewd by vaccines-TOO MANY
    have already been injured. I hope you know what you are doing
    when you promote a “Super Hero” tag on any human who would even consider taking any of this poison. You are not a friend
    or helpful in your position.

    • Bryan Haines Jan 7, 2012, 7:49 am

      Hi John, thanks for your spirited comment.

      Have you traveled internationally? The post isn’t talking about standard childhood vaccines – which is another topic completely. It is talking about the vaccines that are recommended for international travelers when visiting risk areas. These risks aren’t pretend or imaginary. They are real. By the way, I am not a vaccine salesman. Dena was talking about how we coped with getting them – and how we helped our daughter.

      I would be interested to read the scientific backing you have to prove that vaccines are poison. Would you care to share?



      • John Jan 8, 2012, 2:57 am

        Vaccines are not 100 safe , I agree with the above comment . As parents of a child who developed Autism after vaccinations I can only urge parents to listen and do research . I know many parents including M.D who regret vaccinating their child after he

        developedw Autism. The CDC is a influenced by big pharm Corp like Merk , etc.

  • Mary Jo Burke Jan 7, 2012, 1:13 am

    Since I’ve been a blood & plasma donor for 50+ years, needles don’t bother me but I still won’t watch the injection. But I have a couple related questions. I hope to first visit and then move to the Andes region in Ecuador, avoiding the Amazon, the coast & the Galapagos initially. With such limited exposure to mosquitoes, what vaccines are recommended? Some diseases are waterborne, so is tap water drinkable in Cuenca?

  • SUSAN CORREA Jan 6, 2012, 9:30 pm

    Vaccines are not all they are cracked up to be -I would never get a flu shot and never plan to have another vaccination….suggest you do some research on your own… is a good place to start.
    Another good source of information is
    Be careful with vaccinations. They can be very harmful, especially to young children….

    • Bryan Haines Jan 6, 2012, 10:04 pm

      Hi Susan, I understand your point about the flu shot – but this post wasn’t about the flu shot.

      If someone is going to travel internationally, especially to South or Central America, vaccinations are a real concern. You can listen to the fear-monger sites and stay in your house or you can get protected and see the world.

      • SUSAN CORREA Jan 7, 2012, 3:58 pm

        I see the world and don’t worry about getting vaccinated… I am just more afraid of vaccines than I am of the dangers of catching a disease or infection… Just retured from Cuenca and plan to move there, unvaccinated – lived in Mexico for 4 years, unvaccinated…..all I am saying is do your due diligence and get information from more than your doctor and Big Pharma so you can really protect yourself and your family.. By the way, the soldiers coming back from Iraq, etc. are having major problems because of the vaccines they HAD to take…….

  • Jennifer V. Jan 6, 2012, 8:57 pm

    Love these suggestions, they extend to ANY shot appointment for kids; wish my mom had read this post when I was a kid, might have saved me years of terror of needles. Through trials, I found many of these same tricks still work for me as an adult when it’s time for a shot or blood draw. Thanks for another great article!

  • Eric lutz Jan 6, 2012, 8:37 pm

    OK needles; I learned many years ago never to look at a needle . let the Nurse do her job. I find that the little pinch only last for maybe three seconds,
    I tell my self each time I go for a needle. This will be over in a couple of minutes and the hurt is very short. My son will almost pass out if you say the word needle in front of him. What we have to come to grips with is this: Everybody on this earth is different. No two people are the same.However there are cautions that we can work on to get through the needle thing.
    Chow for now keep up the good writing. E & R .

  • Ralph Sabean Jan 6, 2012, 6:23 pm

    I like that idea about taking needles but they are very expensive here in Canada. Are they as expensive in Ecuador say If I wanted Malaria Vaccine before I go to the coast? I know that South America is known for a high rate of Malaria cases in areas near Sea level especially.

  • Dr Don Sanders Jan 6, 2012, 5:55 pm

    While |Small Pox may be required and is usually mildly irritating to take , it can be helpful.
    beyond that, there are very few vaccinations, inmcluding FLU, that are beneficial. The Centwer for Disease Control has finally admitted that there is no real evidewnce that the flu vacinnations are effective. They do add to the drug companys bottom line as a cash cow.
    To really be a HE-MAN to your kids, teach them how to keep their immune systems working at top efficiency naturally.
    This will prevent problems for a life time.
    It requires eating a diet low in sugars and manufactured carbohydrates, high in natural fresh vegetables and fruits, and good fats from animal and fish sources.
    It does not include bad oils such as Canola, Soy, corn oil and the like. Bad Sugars include High fructose corn syrups, fructose and other manufactured sweeteners. Especially avoid the atrificial sweeteners. Colas and sweetened drinks should be avoided. Any with artificial sweeteners should be treate3d like poisons.
    Use natural Honey and Stevia for sweetening. Fruit juices should be mixed at a ratio of 30% juice or less to 70 percent filtered water to reduce the sugar content.
    Best is to eat the natural fruit with the fiber.

    Flour with glutten should be used minimally. Quinoa and other grains without bleaching and gluttens should be used.

    Being a HE-MAN is not taking pain without flinching. Being a HE-MAN is be wise to what is natural and avoiding processed foods, exercising mildly and regularly every day, keeping your diet fresh and 20 percent good fats, 20 percent lean meats and fish and 60 percent fresh fruit and vegetables.

    Just as learning how to manage your money and temper is important, learning to control and manage your diet and natural health is more important.
    Steve Jobs showed that you can have more money than you can spend and still have bad health. All his money did not help him stay healthy and prevent deadly disease.
    YOUR HEALTH IS YOUR WEALTH. And it does not come from a pill or needle.

    Dr Don Sanders

    • Bryan Haines Jan 6, 2012, 6:11 pm

      Hello Dr. Don,

      You make an interesting point. However it doesn’t really apply to this topic. While eating healthy is great, it won’t prevent you from getting rabies or typhoid (I don’t think).

      I agree that eating well is important, but when people travel to different parts of the world there are more factors involved than a balanced diet.

      Thanks for commenting!


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