How to Make Shots Easier on Your Kids

how to make shots easier on your kidsIt’s flu-shot time (hooray, said no one), and since that means it’s getting closer to peak flu season, which usually hits between December and February, today we’re discussing how to make shots easier on your kids. The CDC recommends that everyone older than six months get the seasonal flu vaccine and that certain children get two doses at least a month apart. The vaccine is especially important for kids because they have a higher risk than adults for serious flu-related complications that could land them in the hospital.

If your family gets the flu vaccine, get ready with these tips to make shots easier on your kids:


Explain what the vaccine does and why it’s important. This is especially helpful if your son or daughter is really into science! Here’s a short “Sid the Science Kid” video about it — and there’s also a whole 30-minute episode that encourages kids to “think like a scientist” about getting shots. For kids who are a little younger, try this one with Elmo and former surgeon general Vivek Murthy. (Note: Be sure to have the video cued up on YouTube before you show your kid — otherwise they might happen to spot the titles of lovely videos like “TRAUMATIC FLU SHOTS!!!”)

Promise something fun afterward: That could be an ice cream cone, a visit to a favorite playground, a trip to the store for an inexpensive toy, etc. Some kids may be motivated simply by the free stickers in the waiting area!

Do something distracting while your kid is getting the vaccine: For babies, breastfeeding can make a big difference. Try counting for older kids — although getting your blood pressure taken isn’t as painful as a shot, it used to make my son really anxious, so we started counting together while it was being done, and even that little activity helped. (Is anyone else really bummed that FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine, isn’t available anymore? If you missed the news last year, it’s no longer recommended because it wasn’t as effective. Although he was not a fan of getting stuff sprayed up his nose, my son definitely wasn’t as scared of that as he is with the flu shot.)

Get your own flu shot right before or right after your kid’s shot. I tried this with my son this year (since we were at the pediatrician, I told him I could do it at the grocery store pharmacy) and it helped a little. There are two ways to do this: If you go first, your kid can see that it’s not so bad, and if you go afterward, that might give them incentive to get their own shot over with so they can turn the tables for once and see you get poked with a needle.

If you get upset when your kid gets a shot, or if he or she would do better in a potentially less emotional situation, have your nanny or other caregiver take your kid to get it done, or possibly a relative. (Just check with your doctor’s office to see if that’s OK.)

What are your strategies for how to make shots easier on your kids? Do they get really upset or just take it in stride? Does your family usually get hit by the flu in the wintertime? 

Whether it's flu shots, vaccine shots, or some other kind of shots, they can really stink -- and kids can DREAD getting them. We rounded up some tips for working moms on how to make shots easier on your kids...


  1. A day or two before my daughter’s flu shot this year, we took her to the Target pharmacy with us to watch my husband and I get ours. I think it was helpful to see people reacting calmly to the situation (as opposed to some of the kids in front of us in line at the doctor’s office…). The pharmacist gave her TWO of the fancy bandaids–and it had been so long since she’d had a cut, that both her father and I forgot that we don’t let her have bandaids. When it was time to take them off that evening, there was the usual hysteria about how much that would hurt. Anyway, the upshot was that we were able to sell the flu shot as hurting much less than having a bandaid removed! And we’ll ask the nurse at the doctor’s office not to give you a bandaid tomorrow, so you won’t even have the really hurty part of the shot! Worked like a charm; she barely even flinched for the shot.

    • No crying says:

      Put Vaseline over the sticky parts of the bandaid and wait a few minutes, then it comes right off!

  2. HRHNYC says:

    My 4 year old daughter has convinced herself that “flu shots don’t hurt, only regular shots do.” So we go with that. But we’ve also talked a lot about how a shot hurts a little bit/only for a minute, but getting the disease the shot prevents will make her very sick for a long time. She kind of gets the cost-benefit analysis, and that helps too. Plus the promise to do something fun afterward.

  3. CPA Lady says:

    The nurse at our dr. office was so fast with the flu shot this year that by the time kiddo looked down at her arm to see what was happening, the nurse was putting the band-aid on. And kiddo LOOOOOVES band-aids, so she was happy to get one. She didn’t even cry. We did nothing whatsoever to prepare her. So, just know it might not be bad at all?

  4. Anonymous says:

    We’ve never made a big deal out of getting shots and the kids haven’t had problems. The worst part is taking off the bandaid the next day. They get many more ouchies in the run of a week. We generally get our flu shots at the same time so maybe that helps?

  5. Anonymous says:

    By age 4, we started giving our kid a heads up that shots were going to happen. He seemed to appreciate being able to prepare mentally. Most shots don’t bother him for very long. The only exception- a giant penicillin shot for strep throat. That one is a beast and I wish I had realized how painful it was going to be.

  6. Lalou says:

    Do you (adult) get the flu shot?

    • EB0220 says:

      Yep, definitely.

    • avocado says:

      Absolutely. I had the flu in college, way back before flu shots were routine for everyone. After that experience I started requesting one every year.

    • I never did before but got one at the hospital when my daughter was born (late, I know) and will be going to get one this weekend probably as I’m pregnant again.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes – definitely. Not for myself but to help protect the members of our community who are immunocompromised or otherwise more likely to be impacted. My Dad has COPD, my aunt is undergoing chemo, and my daughter has asthma so we personally benefit but even before the three of those, I always did. I’m lucky to have good health and happy to reduce the spread of disease for others who are not so lucky.

      • Our whole family does (parents + grandparents + kid) and will keep doing it every year. I know it’s not 100% effective, especially because they have to predict the flu strains ahead of time, but I’d rather have some added protection than none.

  7. avocado says:

    I think getting a flu shot every year makes all shots easier, at least for older kids who can remember well from year to year. It becomes a familiar experience and hence less terrifying.

  8. My daughter is not quite two so she’s at the worst stage for this – too old not to immediately freak out in the exam room but too young to actually reason with. She gets upset when we take our dog to the vet so I don’t think getting a flu shot in front of her would help. I wish nurses made home visits in the US, I think having it done at home would make it much, much easier for all of us.

  9. Anonymama says:

    Explain it, but also try to keep it low-key, so it’s not A Big Deal, just we’re going to do a and b and then a quick pinch and then something fun! And as the nurse is getting the shot ready start talking about something Really Interesting that you are going to do/see/eat Very Soon to distract them. Every time you talk about the shot make sure you add whatever you’re going to do afterwards so it’s part of a narrative and not just hanging there like a cloud of doom.

  10. wendalette says:

    When we have shots scheduled for kiddo, I give her kid’s Tylenol (recommended by her nurse) before we leave for the appointment. It doesn’t really make the shot itself hurt less, just relieves the post-injection soreness. But kiddo believes it keeps the needle from hurting as much, so that works for us on both counts!

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