Flu season is almost here and everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated. You might have heard by now that Kelsey-Seybold has no FluMist nasal spray vaccine this year. It was found to be ineffective last year and is not recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season. However, it’s still important for children to be vaccinated. Here’s what you need to know and how you can prepare your child for the traditional shot.
Why Vaccination Is Important
Each year, many children get sick from the flu and some of those illnesses result in death. Children with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system are at especially high risk of developing serious flu complications. So are young children under 5 years – 20,000 of whom are hospitalized each year due to serious complications. With FluMist off the table, this leaves the traditional shot as the only vaccination option for children this year.
Tactics to Calm a Child Upset about Injections
A fear of needles is a very real thing to many children and adults. Now that an injection is the only option for flu protection this year, you’re probably already steeling yourself for resistance and tantrums. Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you.
Let’s start with the don’ts. Be careful not to portray the doctor or nurse giving the shot as the “bad guy.” Doing so could negatively affect your child’s relationships with healthcare providers now and in the future.
Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to prepare your child for an injection:
- Be honest – If your child asks if they’re getting a shot, be upfront about it, but don’t make a big deal of it. Project a matter-of-fact attitude. Explain it’s to help keep them healthy. Also, don’t give them too much information too soon. If their doctor visit is Thursday and you tell them about it on Sunday it really has the potential to work them up beforehand.
- Know when to step away – Knowing your child is in pain or afraid is one of the hardest things you’ll probably have to deal with as a parent, but rationally, you know that the pain and fear that comes with a shot is minimal and short-lived. If your child is hysterical, talk to the nurse. It may be better for you to step out of the room and let the professionals do their job. Not all children are alike, obviously, but in many cases having a parent step out makes a positive difference.
- Give your child limited options – Let your child choose between two options, such as sitting in a chair for the shot or sitting on your lap. It will make your child feel as if they have some control in what’s happening.
- Consider a reward – Tell your child if they’re brave, they’ll be rewarded after the shot is over with spending extra time at the park or with a stop for ice cream on the way home. One note of caution, though. You don’t want your child to end up turning every doctor’s visit into an opportunity to barter for rewards – so my advice is to keep rewards small.
- Praise goes a long way – Don’t overlook the power of a heartfelt hug and kiss after the shot has been given with words of praise.
- Distract them – Have them blow on a pinwheel or tissue, talk to them about their favorite movie or show them an interesting picture and talk with them about it during the procedure. If you can get their mind away from the shot for a few seconds, that’s likely all the doctor will need to immunize them.
The CDC’s Recommendation
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) found that the nasal spray vaccine has lost its effectiveness. The nasal vaccine was less than 3 percent effective on children between 2 years and 17 in 2015 – meaning there was virtually no protection against the influenza virus. Therefore, the CDC rescinded its recommendation. The health protection agency’s decision is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Accordingly, Kelsey-Seybold doctors won’t be using FluMist vaccine this year.
Dr. Laura Roberts Pena (Dr. Roberts to her patients) is a pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Summer Creek Clinic in Humble. Her clinical interests include preventive medicine, chronic or complex medical conditions, and allergies, asthma and eczema.