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 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 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 doctors use a pain-relieving spray or cream before 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, place a cool, damp cloth on the vaccine site to help reduce soreness.
Frequently moving or using the arm or leg that has received the shot may also help reduce the soreness.
Doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen every 4 hours may help with some of the common, minor symptoms after immunizations. Side effects vary depending on which type of immunization was given, 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.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended adult immunization schedule---United States, 2012. MMWR. 2012;61(4).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recommended immunization schedules for persons aged 0 through 18 years---United States, 2012. MMWR 2012;61(05):1-4.
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. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.