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The time is nearing for kids to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Here are 12 tips for minimizing their pain and anxiety while getting a shot of any kind.

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The time is nearing for kids to get COVID-19 vaccinations. Here are 12 tips for minimizing their pain and anxiety while getting a shot of any kind.

An estimated 28 million children nationwide are expected to soon be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine, pending the expected authorization of the Pfizer shot for kids 5 to 11 in the coming weeks.

The annual flu shot is recommended for everyone 6 months and older around this time of the year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is in addition to a variety of immunizations given throughout childhood to protect against potentially life-threatening illnesses.

While getting a shot can be nerve-wracking for many kids, as well as their parents and caregivers, medical experts say certain strategies and coping mechanisms can minimize a child’s anxiety and pain.

Applying some of these techniques can improve the vaccination experience in the moment as well as arm children with long-term skills to help them handle difficult or scary medical procedures throughout life, said Jennie Ott, director of child life and family education at University of Chicago Medicine.

“It’s very anxiety-provoking, but there’s so much parents can feel empowered to do,” she said. “We’re really setting a long-term foundation for children’s experiences with health care encounters.”

Here are 12 tips on how adults can help calm a child and ease their pain during vaccinations.

1. Make a plan.

Talk ahead of time about the upcoming immunization, relay what the child can expect during the appointment, and allow them to ask questions, Ott said.

Going over various coping strategies beforehand can also help prepare children and give them a greater sense of autonomy, she said.

“What I would encourage parents to do is work with their child to come up with a plan,” she said. “Talking to them about their vaccine is going to be a critical piece in this.”

That might mean deciding to bring comforting or distracting items, like a favorite television show on a tablet, soothing music, a security blanket, a favorite stuffed animal or a stress ball.

2. Offer choices.

This could include decisions about which comfort items to bring to the appointment, if the child would like to squeeze your hand or count during the injection. Kids might also have a preference of looking away during the shot or watching the process.

Sometimes adults are inclined to automatically tell children to look away, but for some kids this can spur “a huge sense of loss of control,” Ott said.

Children can also make decisions about how they’d like to be positioned during the shot, from sitting in a parent’s lap to holding a caregiver’s hand to being embraced.

Experts stress that these choices should be realistic; for instance, refusing to get the vaccine altogether isn’t an option.

3. Don’t lie.

This can erode trust between the caregiver and child. Experts say to avoid statements like “you’re not getting a vaccine today” or “you won’t feel it at all.”

“We always talk about making sure we’re truthful with children,” Ott said.

4. Apply numbing agents to the injection site.

Topical anesthetics like lidocaine creams or cold sprays can be applied to the skin at the injection site prior to the shot to reduce pain, said Dr. Diana Bottari, a pain specialist with Advocate Aurora Health. She says hemorrhoid cream can also work to numb the area.

But Bottari added that the decision to use a numbing agent can depend on the child’s preference; for example, some kids might dislike the sensation of cold from a spray.

5. Use pain-minimizing devices.

There’s the ShotBlocker, a small plastic disc with prickly bumps on one side that’s pressed against the skin during the shot, which confuses the body’s nerves and distracts from the injection.

Bottari added that scratching the skin near the injection site — like on the child’s shoulder — can have a similar effect.

There’s also Buzzy vibrating cold packs, devices shaped like ladybugs or bees that use cold temperature and vibration to reduce pain during vaccinations.

6. Validate the child’s feelings.

Avoid statements like “it’s just a shot” or telling kids not to cry.

Medical experts say nervousness is a natural reaction to needles and injections, and adults can acknowledge discomfort from the vaccine.

“We say all the time: Feelings are for feeling, not for fixing,” said Becca Mitsos, a certified child life specialist at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago. “Crying is OK. It’s communication. It’s OK to share how you feel.”

Reaffirm that you’ll be there for your child during the injection, and you’ll get through it together, she said.

“Making it clear that they’re not going to have to go through it alone is important for kids of any age,” Mitsos said.

Ott added that praising a child afterward with statements like “you did it” or “I’m so proud of you for doing it” can also help.

“That verbal praise at the end is huge,” she said.

7. Adults should try and stay calm.

Shots can make parents and guardians nervous, too. Ott advised grown-ups to try to keep their own anxiety in check, because it can exacerbate the emotions of their children.

“A lot of children pick up on parental anxiety,” she said. “We encourage parents to be as calm as they can and really be that sense of support for their child.”

8. Sometimes getting the vaccine at the start of a visit helps.

If the shot is part of longer appointment with a medical provider, asking the clinician to perform the vaccination first might minimize a buildup of anxiety during the visit, Bottari said.

9. Blow bubbles.

Taking slow, deep breaths can be calming, as opposed to the shallow, fast breathing often spurred by anxiety. Bottari suggested bringing bubble solution to the appointment and having the child blow bubbles during the injection, to facilitate deep breathing as well as another method of distraction.

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Tractor-trailer and vehicle on fire on WB 270 at Lindbergh

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Tractor-trailer and vehicle on fire on WB 270 at Lindbergh

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – Members of the St. Louis County Police Central Precinct will be saying farewell to one of their own Thursday at the visitation for fallen police officer Antonio Valentine.

He was driving an unmarked police vehicle on Wednesday, December 1 when a black sedan traveling at a high rate of speed crashed into it near Crete Drive and Chambers Road in Bellefontaine Neighbors. Moments before the crash, Drug Unit Detectives attempted to stop the sedan for an investigation.

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Chicago Bears rookie Teven Jenkins is ‘trusting the process’ in his return from back surgery. For now, that means learning behind veteran Jason Peters.

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Teven Jenkins is content to learn from veteran Jason Peters for now after the Chicago Bears rookie recovered from back surgery: ‘I believe it’s the right path for me’

It would be understandable if Teven Jenkins’ patience were wearing thin.

Nearly 13 months have passed since the Chicago Bears offensive tackle has started a football game.

First a back injury at Oklahoma State prompted him to opt out of the final four games of his senior season in 2020. Then, after the Bears drafted him with the 39th pick in the spring, another back issue required surgery and sidelined him for the first three months of his rookie season.

Now, though Jenkins said he hasn’t felt this good physically since he was 18 years old, he remains sidelined behind nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, the 39-year-old veteran whom the Bears signed to fill in.

Jenkins, however, said he’s willing to take on whatever role the Bears want for him right now, even if that’s mostly just soaking up Peters’ advice.

“It’s all about trusting the process,” Jenkins said Wednesday in his first media session since June. “(Peters is) a (future) Hall of Famer. He’s greatness. So I have no problem sitting behind Jason Peters right now and learning — just learning.

“Because I trust what the Bears have in store for me and I trust what Coach (Juan) Castillo has for me and Coach (Matt) Nagy. I trust them all. And I believe it’s the right path for me.”

With Peters playing well and Jenkins still catching up from the time he missed, Nagy and Castillo said Jenkins will serve as depth at left tackle for now, with occasional playing time on special teams or in special situations. They could, of course, change their mind at any point, especially if the Bears are officially eliminated from playoff contention and want to see what Jenkins can do.

Jenkins said his heart was racing as he played two snaps on extra points Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals — his first NFL appearance after he returned to practice in mid-November.

“It’s my first game, and that’s like the big stage,” Jenkins said. “Of course I was nervous a little bit. … But it’s just one little hump I had to get over and just had to get acclimated.”

Jenkins had a tough few months to get to that point.

He said the symptoms of his back injury were different from when he had a back issue as a senior in college.

Unbearable nerve pain shot down his legs, making it difficult to do even little things such as take steps and get up from sitting. He said symptoms lingered between working in the offseason program and training camp, and he wonders if trying to work through it — as football players are used to doing — made it worse.

“I probably pushed myself out there a little bit faster because I had that urge — I wanted to get back on the field; I don’t care if it’s hurt,” Jenkins said. “And maybe I did push myself a little bit too much and made it a little worse, and that’s what ended up going on to get surgery.”

Jenkins said he and the Bears exhausted other options before deciding on the August surgery. Jenkins hopes it solved the issue so his back won’t be a problem down the road.

Before he could physically practice, Jenkins attended Bears meetings for a couple of hours a day, during which he would write down the plays to mentally roll through in his head later, sometimes with the help of his fiancee. When he was able to get up and move, he would walk through the scenarios at home.

The early days of his recovery, when he was at Halas Hall for only a couple of hours a day, were the most difficult because he was itching to compete.

“It was kind of hard at the beginning, but then I started realizing it was something out of my control,” Jenkins said. “Mentally, I got past that and said, ‘Look, if I can’t do this physically, I’m going to get better mentally in the playbook and schemes and games against people we’re playing with and just keep on doing that.’ And that’s how I got over it mentally.”

Castillo said it’s now a matter of gaining experience in practice and from watching Peters.

“Right now the thing for him is just getting off the ball and getting to a spot,” Castillo said. “I’m talking about pass protection. Run game is a little easier than pass pro. … The key is, at the snap count, being able to get off the ball, being able to explode and get to that spot as quick as he can.

“That’s something that Jason is really good at that we worked on a long time ago and that he’s really mastered — being able to get off that football. So for me, that really helps my teaching to be able to have somebody I worked with before that they can see exactly how it’s done.”

Jenkins is willing to take that teaching for now as he waits for his next opportunity.

“Personally, I’m still waiting to see how it all unfolds,” Jenkins said. “Right now I’m still backing up JP. … Great player, even greater person, and just being able to learn and get the knowledge he’s sharing with us, just having that advantage as my career goes on, I feel like that’s a great thing for me.”

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Health care chain zooms in on LoHi for second Denver location

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Health care chain zooms in on LoHi for second Denver location

ZoomCare is focusing its lens on the Denver market.

The Portland-based health care provider opened its second location in Denver, and fourth in Colorado, last month at 3210 Tejon St. in LoHi.

“Where we place our clinics is part of our proprietary secrets, but LoHi fits the profile of the neighborhoods we like to go into,” said CEO Jeff Fee.

“And with our entrée into Denver, it’s a growing market and has similar market characteristics of our existing markets. Our goal down the road is to become a national brand, and Denver seemed like a good fit for the ZoomCare model.”

ZoomCare, which started as a neighborhood clinic in 2006, has about 60 locations in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and Colorado.

The healthcare provider moved into Colorado last year, when it opened a clinic at 1431 15th St. in LoDo and another in Boulder last year. The company added one in Arvada in June.

The company signed a lease for the 1,080-square-foot LoHi space in April. Endorphin Fitness previously operated there.

ZoomCare has around 1,500 patients in the Denver area, according to Fee. Each clinic has a staff of board-certified providers who cater to a broad range of illnesses and injuries. Patients are able to schedule their urgent, primary and preventive care services in the same day. Rather than having a primary doctor, patients can visit any of the team’s providers at any of its locations across the U.S.

There are also on-site labs and prescriptions, so patients can leave with medication in hand.

Courtesy of ZoomCare

ZoomCare has around 1,500 patients in the Denver area.

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