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Babies and shots

Definition

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

See also: Immunizations - general overview

Alternative Names

Shots and babies; Children and immunizations

Information

Many parents often wonder how to make shots less painful for their babies. Unfortunately, routine immunizations need to be given into the muscle or under the skin using a needle. Reducing your child's anxiety level is perhaps 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 okay 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 he or she cries.

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

Some parents give the child one dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen 30 minutes before the shot. Always check with your health care provider before giving these medications for this purpose. Some studies have shown that the vaccines may not work as well when these medicines are given before the shots. Some pediatricians use a pain-relieving spray or cream prior to immunizations.

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.

Hold your child on your lap facing you in a firm hug during 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 placed on the vaccine site may help reduce soreness.

Frequently moving or using the arm or leg that has received the shot is also recommended to help reduce the soreness.

Doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen every 4 hours may help with some of the common, minor side effects. Side effects vary depending on the specific type of immunization, but they are generally mild. Talk with your doctor or nurse if your child develops a high fever, cannot be calmed down, or becomes very listless.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule---United States, 2009. MMWR. 2009;57(53):Q1-Q4.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years---United States, 2009. MMWR. 2009;57(51&52):Q1-Q4.


Review Date: 11/2/2009
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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