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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