Inoculation Time Made Easier

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I have discovered the parenting equivalent of the New World. Our daughters got flu shots recently, and neither kids nor mom walked away from the experience in abject terror. We didn’t need to resort to blankie time or heavy doses of chocolate.

Sorry, folks. My discovery isn’t one that I could have taken advantage of before now. You’ll need to wait it out too. My repertoire of vaccination-related pain minimization strategies is the usual, the list your doctor and other parents told you about in preparation for your kids’ first well baby visit:

  • Don’t schedule your appointments anywhere near nap time.
  • Give your child Tylenol, or whatever the safest kid-approved pain reliever and fever reducer is where you live, 30 minutes before your appointment. This minimizes pain and the chance of a fever over the next day or so.
  • If your child is old enough, promise a treat after the visit, and follow through on your promise. Give yourself a nice big reward too.
  • If your child has a lovey, a toy or blanket–my sister had a washcloth–bring it with you.
  • Use  all your limbs and available personnel to hold your children down during the act of vaccination.
  • Ask your medical service provider what formulations they have available to minimize the number of pricks your children must endure. A lot of vaccines now come packaged in a single vial.
  • Seriously consider investing in earplugs for yourself.

The new information I have to offer is the observation that inoculation is crazy easy at age 5. This year, we walked into the clinic, and I filled out the requisite paperwork while the girls read Alice in Wonderland. When they started to express some concern, I told them that the flu shot would hurt, but only for a second. It would feel like a brief bug bite. I illustrated by quickly tapping their skin with my nail. When we saw the nurse, the girls clambered onto the examination table in turn, selected a band-aid, got her shot, said “That didn’t hurt so much,” picked a sticker, and jumped down. No tears. No flailing. No new bruises for me from trying to hold them still.

I’m usually the very first in line to get my girls their shots. Having grown up in a developing country and being allergic to the eggs in which many vaccines are grown, I am all too painfully aware of the risks of foregoing vaccination. This year, however, navigating the medical system in our new town has been fraught with challenges. It has taken me until just recently to figure out when and where to take J and M for their flu shots.

My husband has been deployed during all but two flu seasons since our daughters were born. In addition to the regular vaccines pediatricians recommend for all children, the girls got monthly RSV shots for 7 months in a row as infants. I consider myself well-versed in the ways of solo parent/double child vaccination.

I’d hold both children in my lap, one on each knee, and thank my lucky stars that my children did not outnumber my knees. The nurse would make small talk, but as soon as she reached for the syringe and vials, the thrashing, kicking and screaming would start. M suffers from more anxiety than J, but it never mattered who went first.  M would scream in anticipation as soon as we reached the exam room, and J would sob in sympathy. I would set the phrase “This too shall pass” on repeat in my head. The tragic response would last until the girls cried themselves asleep or, once they were old enough to appreciate them, they could select stickers at the front desk of the office.

Sound familiar? It did eventually pass, after all.

Sadia, her husband and their 5-year-old daughters moved to El Paso by order of Uncle Sam last year, after having done all their child-rearing in the Austin area before that.

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Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 10-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. They live in the Austin, TX suburbs, where Sadia works full time in information technology. She contributes to a number of parenting websites and magazines and also runs The Mommy Blogging Guide, where she answers mommy bloggers' technical questions.

6 thoughts on “Inoculation Time Made Easier”

  1. My favorite vaccination memory is my older son walking into his four-year-old appointment and asking the nurse for his immuzamations because it was his responsibility. And then proceeded to do a pretty good job of explaining the herd immunization theory to her!

    He didn’t cry, but was very happy to get the special four-year-old-shot-appointment balloon.

    As long as I’m sharing random stories of his toughness, when he was about 2.5 he had some reasonably serious anemia issues. Didn’t transfuse him, but it was on the table level (turns out it was a milk issue, but that’s another story). As a result he had to have a lot of blood drawn. When the guy stuck the second arm to fill the last two tubes, Trajan looked up at him with a single tear in his eye and said, “don’t you know that hurts?”

    And back on topic, one tip someone gave me before I had any kids was to not use the word shots. Kids here the word shot in bad connotations and so it can be scary in itself. Not sure if avoiding this word has actively helped us since I don’t have a control group, but it definitely hasn’t hurt!

    Love finding you writing again :-)

  2. I always appreciated the nurses at my pediatrician’s office. They would be sure to double up when it was time for immunizations so that we could have two nurses in the room. That way we could do the shots simultaneously. Then they would be there to give me a hand with soothing and dressing them. There were always lots of tears, but with the extra hands it went more quickly and smoothly. There was one time when only one nurse came in and I politely asked if we could have two. I had to wait a few extra minutes, but they were happy to oblige!

  3. I usually bring my motherinlaw with me to the babies doctor visits, it sure is nice having the extra set of hands.

    I had to bring them in just for an extra round of flu shots (they did it in two doses, I guess cause they’re only 7 months?). It was warm that day, so they just had onesies so they’re lehgs were exposed and the nurse gave it to em while they were still in their carseats. One of em stopped crying before the nurse could put the bandaid on. She’s a tough cookie.

  4. Our pediatrician’s office is a well-oiled machine when it comes to vaccinating our twins, they always have two nurses, each takes a vaccine and a leg, and they are done, even when it is a couple shots, in seconds. Mommy or Daddy gets to hold the kid and comfort, and it’s usually only tears for a second and they’re back to normal.

  5. The last shots our girls had – flu shots at just over 2 1/2-years old – they didn’t cry. I told them ahead of time (although with not too much notice) where we were going. I told them the shot would hurt, but only for a second. I told them if they acted like big girls, I was sure the doctor would give them a sticker.

    I held them each tightly and sang in their ears while they got the shots, and neither so much as whimpered. They were so proud of themselves.

    They play “doctor” all the time now with a doctor kit they got for the holidays, and they tell their dolls, “This will hurt, but only for a second!” when they pretend to give shots.

    I am hoping for continued success…that if I don’t make a big production out of the event, neither will they.

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