700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Don’t Skip the Flu Shot: Soothe Your Child with These Distraction Techniques

Nov 05, 2020

As a physician, it’s tough to see our children twist and turn and cry and scream when it’s time for them to get their vaccines. All we want to do is soothe them and keep them healthy year-round, and we never like seeing them in pain.

You may be apprehensive about getting your child – or even yourself – a flu shot. But as a physician, I have two pieces of advice:

  1. Definitely still get yourself and your family vaccinated. Everyone six months and older should get them unless there is a medical reason not to. Vaccines are the most effective way to protect against influenza and other diseases.
  2. There are so many ways to help comfort your child when receiving a shot, and as a parent, you are the key to success!

Our child-life specialists here at Nationwide Children’s break distraction techniques down into age-specific, evidenced-based techniques:


The smallest of patients just want to be close to Mom and Dad most of the time. Little ones respond well to swaddling, snuggling, pacifiers, and breastfeeding to help calm and distract from pain.

Younger Children (2 - 6 Years Old) 

Consider using technology to your advantage. Younger kids like videos and music, singing, and special positioning to keep calm. This age group also likes to have opportunities for choice and control, like choosing whether they want to watch an injection or not, deciding which arm is used, and having a role like holding their bandage.

Older Children (6 Years and Older)

School-aged children respond well to relaxation techniques like deep breathing, praise, and guided imagery, like picturing and talking about a favorite place. This age group also likes to know what is happening, so parents should feel comfortable talking with their kids about what is going to happen at their doctor’s appointment. Your child’s physician can also let them touch the alcohol swab, see the needle, and ask any questions they have about what their doctor is doing.

Anxiety or fear related to getting a shot are absolutely normal, and every child will react differently. If you know there is something that works for your child, let your pediatrician know so they can implement that technique during your visit. As parents, you set the stage for how a child will react to what is coming, so being honest and collaborating with your physician is important.

Catching both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time can be double trouble. Make sure you and your child receive the flu shot this year – the best time is now. Nationwide Children’s has protocols and procedures in place prioritizing the health and safety of your family. Call your child’s doctor’s office today to schedule a flu shot.

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Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Matthew Washam, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases

Matthew C. Washam, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and member of the Section of Infectious Diseases at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Washam’s research interests include understanding the risk factors for transmission of multidrug-resistant bacteria in children within the hospital environment.

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.