By DR. RICHARD RUPP and BRIDGET HAWKINS

Dear Vaccine Smarts,

I’m a new mom. I found it difficult to watch my daughter receive her first round of shots.
Is there anything I can do to make it easier on her?

Imelda
San Leon
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Dear Imelda,

We sympathize with you.

No one likes to watch her child experience pain.

Believe it or not, some babies and toddlers don’t cry at all.

But many do, so here are a few tips that may help for your next doctor’s office visit, based on what we’ve seen in the clinics.

It’s best if you can stay in the room to comfort your child.

Children are much less stressed during medical procedures when their parent or guardian is nearby.

Give loving words of reassurance such as: “I’m right here. This will be over soon and
the hurt will go away.”

Hold and comfort the child once the shots are given.

Older children usually do best if you don’t warn them in advance of an appointment.

They worry, and their imaginations are worse than reality.

You can keep older children occupied or distracted with books, games on cellphones or
songs.

Older children also benefit from hearing that they’re getting the shots to keep them from getting sick, while 4- to 6-year-olds do better when they hear that the shots will allow them to go to “big-kid” school.

For them, it’s all about growing up.

Another thing to keep in mind is that children take cues from their parents.

Parents who are anxious or overly apologetic increase the stress and pain in their children.

It’s best to be firm and let children know they are going to get their vaccines even if they cry or refuse.

Children shouldn’t be given a choice in this matter.

Finally, it’s important to never threaten your child with shots.

Health care providers cringe every time they hear a parent say, “you’d better be good or I’ll have them give you a shot.”

Vaccines are not a punishment.

Vaccines are designed to help keep us healthy.

While it may be difficult to watch your little one get her first shots, know that vaccinating your child is one of the most important steps you can take to protect her health and future.

Dr. Richard Rupp is a pediatrician and member of UTMB’s Sealy Center for Vaccine Development. Bridget Hawkins, Ph.D., is the assistant director of the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development. This column is supported by a UTMB President’s Cabinet Award to provide information about vaccines. Visit www.utmb.edu/scvd/vaccinesmarts for more information.