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Babies and shots

Definition

Immunizations (vaccinations) are important to keep your child healthy. This article discusses how to ease the pain of shots for babies.

Alternative Names

Babies and vaccines; Babies and immunizations; Babies and vaccinations; Chickenpox - shots; DTaP - shots; Hepatitis A - shots; Hepatitis B - shots; Hib - shots; Haemophilus influenza - shots; Influenza - shots; Meningococcal - shots; MMR - shots; Pneumococcal - shots; Polio - shots; IPV - shots; Tdap - shots

Information

Parents often wonder how to make shots less painful for their babies. Nearly all immunizations (also called vaccinations) need to be given into the muscle or under the skin using a needle and syringe. Reducing your child's anxiety level may be the best way to help limit the pain.

Here are some tips.

BEFORE THE SHOT

Tell older children that the shot is needed to keep them safe and healthy. Knowing what to expect ahead of time may reassure the child.

Explain to the child that it is OK to cry. But suggest that the child try to be brave. Explain that you do not like shots either, but you try to be brave, too. Praise the child after the shot is over, whether or not they cry.

Plan something fun to do afterward. A trip to the park or other entertainment after the shot can make the next one less scary.

Some health care providers use a pain-relieving spray or cream before giving the shot.

WHEN THE SHOT IS BEING GIVEN

Put pressure on the area before the shot is given.

Stay calm and do not let the child see if you are upset or anxious. The child will notice if you cringe before the shot. Talk calmly and use soothing words.

Follow the provider's instructions about how to hold your child to steady the leg or arm that will get the shot.

Distract the child by blowing bubbles or playing with a toy. Or point out a picture on the wall, count or say the ABCs, or tell the child something funny.

WHAT TO EXPECT AT HOME

After the shot is given, a cool, damp cloth may be placed on the vaccination site to help reduce soreness.

Frequently moving or using the arm or leg that received the shot may also help reduce the soreness.

Giving your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help relieve common, minor symptoms after immunizations. Follow package instructions about how to give your child the medicine. Or contact your child's provider for instructions.

Side effects from the shots vary, depending on which type of immunization was given. Most of the time, side effects are mild. Contact your child's provider right away if your child:

  • Develops a high fever
  • Cannot be calmed
  • Becomes much less active than normal

COMMON VACCINES FOR CHILDREN

Gallery

Infant immunizations
Immunizations (vaccinations) are given to initiate or augment resistance to an infectious disease. Immunizations provide a specialized form of immunity that provides long-lasting protection against specific antigens, such as certain diseases. Routine immunizations are administered with a needle since they need to be given right into the muscle. Reducing the level of anxiety for your child is perhaps the best way to help limit the pain during a vaccine.

References

Berstein HH, Killinsky A, Orenstein WA. Immunization practices. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 197.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. For immunization partners: childhood immunization resources. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/partners/childhood/index.html. Updated September 24, 2020. Accessed February 23, 2024.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Vaccines and preventable diseases: healthcare providers: RSV prevention information. www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/rsv/hcp/child.html. Updated September 28, 2023. Accessed February 23, 2024.

Wodi AP, Murthy N, McNally VV, Daley MF, Cineas S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Recommended immunization schedule for children and adolescents aged 18 years or younger - United States, 2024. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2024;73(1):6-10. PMID: 38206855 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38206855/.

Last reviewed February 17, 2024 by Charles I. Schwartz, MD, FAAP, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, General Pediatrician at PennCare for Kids, Phoenixville, PA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team..

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