For many decades, RVNAhealth has administered flu vaccines to community members — young, old, and every age in between! And each year, we encounter and help flu shot recipients, mostly children, who find the experience truly stressful. Following are strategies recommended by CDC and RVNAhealth Community Health Manager April Rodriguez, RN, to minimize stress and ensure your child gets their “best shot.”

Be honest. Rodriguez recommends explaining that vaccines can sting a bit, but not for a long time. Explain that they will help your child stay healthy.

Be calm, kind, firm, and prepared. Make this visit feel like any other errand. Offer a heads up on the appointment, but no need for a long notice. Explain the process and the time frame and adhere to it. Have your child wear a short-sleeved shirt for efficiency.

Employ the experience of the flu nurse. Allow the nurse to interact with your child and manage the flow of the appointment. Children often respond favorably to calm and experienced professionals.

Numb the spot. Doctors can prescribe a numbing cream, but Rodriguez recommends simply applying ice before the vaccine. RVNAhealth keeps a supply of cute ice packs on hand for our young patients in need.

Plan and encourage distractions. A toy, gadget, device, or book can calm your child and deflect attention. During the vaccine, deep breathing, a cough, or pretending to blow out candles can help distract from the injection.

Give control. Let your child feel “in charge” when possible. Children can choose which arm to use or decide what music to listen to while waiting in the car for the appointment.

Hold the young ones. Holding your child firmly in your lap comforts your child while helping the nurse administer the vaccine as efficiently as possible.

Give praise and a reward. At RVNAhealth, we offer congratulations, cute band aids, stickers, plus a coupon for an ice cream compliments of Deborah Ann’s Sweet Shoppe to all flu vaccine recipients 18 and under.

Children 18 and under receive their flu shots at RVNAhealth for free this year courtesy of the State of Connecticut. Make your appointment now by calling 203-438-5555 or visiting rvnahealth.org/services/be-well/flu-shots/.