Our trip to Vietnam is coming up in April which we are all very excited about. Vaccinations are never fun with children but they are essential when traveling to the kids of places we love going!
For this trip the adults needed a Tetanus Booster and Typhoid (our Hep A & B is all up to date) and the kids needed Hep A and Typhoid. There is an Oral Typhoid vaccination (3 capsules over 5 days) available for anyone over the age of 6 providing they can swallow a capsule.
With this in mind we told our older girls they could have one less needle if they could swallow a Tic Tac easily in one go by the time we needed to have the vaccinations. Miss 8 struggled the first time we played with the Tic Tacs but then got the hang of it over coming days and was able to have the Oral Typhoid. Miss 6 couldn’t swallow her Tic Tacs after a few different tries so she opted to have the injection … and Miss 4 didn’t have a choice but was naturally given some Tic Tacs anyway!
Preparing the children for vaccinations
I am a great believer in being honest with children about any medical procedure. The kinds of messages I gave them in the lead up to our vaccinations were:
- Needles do hurt, a little bit … but not for very long
- Bee stings hurt more than needled (Miss 4 was stung by a bee the week before so I thought this would give her a good reference)
- The needles/vaccinations give our bodies “super powers” to fight germs that can make us really sick when we travel
- Mum & Dad will be having needles too
- For every needle you have you get to choose a chocolate (we bought a small box of Roses chocolates to use)
Managing fear and anxiety on the day
Needles are scary for young kids, well … they are scary for my kids. Managing their anxiety on the day was quite challenging.
Unfortunately the clinic was running more than 30 minutes late so the kids had a lot of time to build up their worries once we were there.
The things I focused on were:
- keeping a generally calm and happy vibe going in the waiting room
- letting them watch Mum and Dad have their needles first
- I wanted to separate the kids once the kids started having their injections so that the tears of one child didn’t stir up the anxiety for the next child. Unfortunately this didn’t eventuate when the time came.
- Being very clear and firm in my communication of what was going to happen
- Making sure chocolates were visible and available as soon as a needle was given! (don’t offer food bribes before the needles as if your kids are wriggling around they can choke)
How did it all go in reality?
There were a lot of tears from the kids. My 6 year old and 4 year old had to be held firmly to receive both needles but recovered well with chocolate.
My 8 year old, who went last, actually became quite hysterical before her one injection. The nurse and I tried to calm her, rationalise with her but her hysterics just got bigger and bigger. In the end I was forced to restrain her by wrapping my arms and legs around her to hold her still.
My heart broke for her. As soon as the needle went in though she looked at my with an expression that said “Is that it?” and then we both started laughing. She realised that she had gotten herself very worked up about something that wasn’t actually very painful after all. I really hope she remembers this next time …
I haven’t told the kids yet but if we take them for a booster Hep A injection in 6-12 months they will get at least 20 years immunity which is great for travelers like us … I will wait until after Vietnam to sell that idea to them!
I don’t think there is ever an easy way to deal with travel vaccinations and children. Just remember that it is a short moment in time that allows you to have a grand adventure.