Laurel Schultz, pediatrician gives us a few tips on how to make injection appointments less traumatic for our little ones. Here they are…
- Call your doctor before the visit and ask if you can give your baby or toddler a dose of paracetamol ahead of time, to minimize the pain of the shot. If the timing doesn’t work, ask if you can give him some paracetamol either in the office or as soon as you get home.
- If you’re breastfeeding your child, you can nurse him while he receives his shots or immediately afterward to calm him down. Breastfeeding is a powerful pain reliever, because it combines cuddling, skin-to-skin contact, sucking, and a sweet taste – a soothing antidote to the shock and pain of the needle.
- If breastfeeding isn’t an option, try to distract your baby as soon as the shots are over by rocking him, talking or singing to him, or even dancing him around the room. Catching his eye with a fun toy never hurts, either.
- Schedule shots carefully. If your child does have a reaction, you’ll want to be close to home, where he can get the care he needs – so make travel arrangements and plan birthday parties and other activities with that in mind. Most children who have a reaction have it on the evening of the shots. The MMR, however, can trigger a fever or rash seven to ten days after the injection, and some children will be moderately ill for a day or two.
If you feel strongly about minimizing your child’s discomfort, you can talk to your doctor about a cream called EMLA. EMLA is a topical anesthetic that you apply about an hour before the shot is administered. You’ll need a prescription from your doctor to buy the cream, and an approximate time when the shot(s) will be given so you’ll know when to apply it.
Several studies show that EMLA is effective at minimizing pain, both at the time of the injection and after. (In my practice, we don’t use this product regularly because we haven’t found it to be helpful.)
You also may want to ask your doctor about combination vaccines, which can reduce the total number of shots your child gets. One such vaccine, called Pentacel, combines the vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP), Hib, and polio, so your child gets one shot instead of three.