Flu shot campaigns are in full swing across the country. For many people, getting vaccinated is a yearly routine they maintain for good health. However, it can be a stress-inducing event for about one in 10 people.

“About 10 per cent of adults, who would be recommended to get the flu vaccine, for example, healthcare workers, do report a fear of needles,” says Dr. Joanne Langley of the IWK Health Centre.

Langley is an infectious disease specialist and is no stranger to spreading the word about the influenza vaccine.

It is recommended that most people over the age of six months get an annual flu shot to keep themselves protected. Despite the guidelines, many people avoid getting the flu shot due to a fear of needles.

For many, those anxieties develop because of poorly managed pain during the immunization procedure.

Dr. Christine Chambers is a clinical psychologist with the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research at the IWK. She says following the “Three Ps” of pain management can help significantly.       

The first P is pharmacological.

“Most people, parents and adults, are unaware that they can buy a cream for about five dollars over the counter at the pharmacy, that can be applied about an hour before the procedure and that significantly reduces pain,” says Chambers.

The second P is psychological. Chambers says there are strategies for relaxation and distraction that can help ease anxiety and pain. Simply engaging in a game or app on your phone can help take the mind elsewhere.

“Another thing parents can do is bring bubbles. These are great because they’re a distraction. They also get children blowing and that helps to relax them as well,” says Chambers.

The third P is physical factors, such as body position, which can play a role in pain management. Having an older child sit up, rather than lying down, can make a shot more comfortable.

For infants under the age of one, what they drink can also make a difference.

“There is evidence that sugar water, or what we call sucrose, can significantly reduce pain from vaccinations. Likewise, breastfeeding has been found to have pain relieving properties,” says Chambers.

If the idea of getting a needle still makes you shudder, a nasally administered vaccine is available for those between the ages of two and 49.   

Dr. Langley says it is actually the preferred vaccine for young children.

“It kind of mimics an influenza infection, but a very, very mild one, so that you’re almost not aware of it and allows your body to develop a really good immune response to it,” says Langley.