Vaccination anxiety is not uncommon - both for you as the parent and for your child who is being vaccinated.
Your experience as a parent has already taught you that the emotions you show can affect your child's mood and temperament. If you get angry, they respond by getting upset. If you talk soothingly when they are upset, they respond by calming down. The list of examples goes on and on. This means that if you are displaying vaccine anxiety, you might be making them anxious as well.
In order to reduce your child's anxiety about being vaccinated, the first step is to reduce your own vaccine anxiety. One step towards this is to get more factual vaccine-related information from trusted sources, such as the Canadian Paediatric Society, the Canadian Coalition for Immunization Awareness & Promotion, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Being better informed will help you separate vaccine myths from vaccine reality. You can also talk to your doctor about your vaccine-related concerns. Dispelling the myths causing your vaccine anxiety should help you, and in turn your child, become more comfortable with vaccines.
Once you have done your vaccine homework, the facts will become clear: vaccinations have saved the lives of more babies and children than any other medical advance in the last 50 years. Before protective vaccines were available, the 13 vaccine-preventable diseases covered in your province or territory's immunization schedule caused immeasurable childhood suffering and death. The danger is still out there - the germs that cause these diseases haven't disappeared. The fact that you don't hear much about them anymore is a reflection of just how well vaccines are doing their jobs in protecting Canada's children.
Doing your vaccine homework will also educate you about the fact that you have to stick to your child's vaccination schedule to become fully protected. To work their best, vaccines need to be given at the proper time.
So now you've managed your vaccine anxiety by getting all the facts you need. You are comfortable with your child getting vaccinated and you also know how important it is to stick to your child's immunization schedule. If you have no anxiety, does this mean that your child won't have anxiety when it comes to vaccination time? Of course not! After all, they are the ones being stuck with needles and it's safe to say that the majority of children do not like being stuck with needles! So what can you do? The answer varies depending on the age of your child.
For a child of any age, it is important that you be relaxed when they are being vaccinated. Remember, your emotions can affect your child's emotions and comfort level. Ask your health care professional about whether you should give your child acetaminophen to reduce the pain of vaccination and, if so, what dose to use. For babies it is best that you also cuddle them during the vaccination so they feel safe. If you are breast-feeding, try breast-feeding your baby just before, during, and after the shot for comfort. If you are not breast-feeding, try giving your baby a little sugar water just before their shot (ask your health care provider for more information on this). Attempt to distract them during the immunization. Use your voice in a soothing tone or use a favourite toy.
With older children, you can try similar tactics such as distraction and comforting. Remember that at an early age, children can understand much of what you tell them when you say it in simple, understandable language. Try to be honest with them and tell them it might hurt a little. Tell them in simple language how much good the vaccine is doing for them. Let them know how vaccines make them stronger and prevent them from becoming sick from very bad germs. Reward and praise them for being so good in the health care professional's office during their scheduled vaccination. Take your child somewhere special afterwards to have some fun together so they remember the positives better than the negatives.
Reduce your anxiety by becoming knowledgeable about vaccinations. Be creative. You know your child the best, so make a vaccine-anxiety reducing plan that might work for them.
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