How to Prepare a Child for their Vaccine

Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your family safe from vaccine-preventable diseases. Needles are a common fear for people of all ages, including children, but with a few simple steps, you can help make sure their appointment goes smoothly.

Talk to Your Child

Sometimes fear comes from uncertainty and knowing what to expect can ease the fear. Talk to your child before their appointment, and tell them what the appointment is for, and why being vaccinated is important, using simple, age-appropriate language.

Be honest about the appointment and don’t avoid mentioning the needle, as this can cause more anxiety and stress for your child. Let them know that being afraid of needles is normal, but that getting vaccinated will help protect themselves and those they love.

Remember it is just as important for you to remain calm when talking about the vaccine appointment. Children are perceptive and will notice if you are anxious or worried, and it could frighten them further. Try to avoid using fearful tones and body language, both when talking about vaccines and while at the appointment.

Pain Management for Your Child

If your child is concerned about the pain, topical numbing creams and patches are available from some pharmacies. Using a numbing cream on the site of the vaccination before the appointment can help with the pain, as well as provide your child with peace of mind.

Make sure to carefully read the instructions on where to apply, and how long before their appointment, to ensure proper placement and use. Most products should be applied approximately half an hour to an hour before the appointment. If you are unsure about where or when to apply the cream or patch, contact your healthcare provider or pharmacy for more information.

Distract Your Child

If your child is nervous about needles, knowing what to expect from their appointment may not ease their fears. Taking their mind off the needle may be the best way to keep them calm, and depending on the age of your child, different options may work. Here are 6 tricks to distract your child:

  • Count backwards from 100, or the highest number they can.
  • Listen to music or watch videos on a phone or tablet.
  • Bring a book for them to read or have read to them.
  • Practice breathing exercises, to help release tension in the body and make needles less painful.
  • Ask your child open questions, such as their opinions on their favourite things, or what they would like to eat for dinner.
  • Plan a fun activity or treat for after their appointment and tell them about it, to keep their mind on the future and not on present discomfort.

Holding your child properly during their vaccination appointment will comfort them and allow the vaccinator to properly administer the vaccine.

Keep Your Child Occupied

When you’re at the vaccination clinic, you may have to wait in line a bit. You’ll also have to stay on site in the observation area for 15 minutes after your child receives their vaccine. Make sure to bring items like their favourite book, toy, or a tablet to keep them occupied while at the clinic.