Before, During, and After Shots

Prepare for your child’s doctor vaccine visit and know what to do to support your child during and after your child is vaccinated.

Before the visit

Mom looks up vaccine information on a laptop while holding her baby.

Read about the vaccines your child is getting.

  • Read vaccine materials you received from your child’s healthcare professional and write down any questions you may have.
  • Get a list of vaccines your child may need; use this quick vaccine assessment tool.
  • Learn more about the benefits and risks of the vaccines that your child will receive by reviewing the Vaccine Information Statements. You can also request Vaccine Information Statements at the doctor’s office.
  • Find your child’s personal immunization record and bring it to your appointment. An up-to-date record tells your doctor exactly what shots your child has already received.

Be ready to support your child during the vaccine visit. Pack your child’s favorite toy, book, or blanket to comfort him or her during vaccinations.

If your child is older and you can have a chat:

  • Be honest with your child. Explain that shots can pinch or sting, but that it won’t hurt for long.
  • Engage other family members, especially older siblings, to support your child.
  • Avoid telling scary stories or making threats about shots.
  • Remind your child that vaccines can keep him or her healthy.

Help your child see vaccines as a good thing. Never threaten your child with shots by saying, “If you misbehave I will have the nurse give you a shot.” Instead, remind children that vaccines can keep them healthy.

A mild illness is usually not a reason to reschedule a vaccination visit. Learn more about vaccines when your child is sick.

At the doctor’s office

If you have questions about vaccination, ask your child’s doctor or healthcare professional. Your child’s doctor will give you Vaccine Information Statements for the vaccines that your child will be getting that day. Vaccine Information Statements include information about the risks and benefits of each vaccine. If your doctor doesn’t give you one, you can request one.

Make shots easier on your child

Father kissing his son on his cheek.
For babies and younger children
  • Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing, or talking softly.
  • Smile and make eye contact with your child. Let your child know that everything is ok.
  • Comfort your child with a favorite toy or book. A blanket that smells familiar will help your child feel more comfortable.
  • Hold your child firmly on your lap, whenever possible.

Once your child has received all of the shots, be especially supportive. Hold and cuddle your child. A soothing voice, combined with praise and hugs will help reassure the child that everything is okay.

Additionally, babies can be soothed through swaddling, skin-to-skin contact, and breastfeeding. If older than 6 months, babies can also be given a sweet beverage.

Adolescent girl smiling.
For older children and adolescents
  • Point out interesting things in the room to help create distractions.
  • Tell or read stories.
  • Support your child if he or she cries.
  • Never scold a child for not “being brave.”
  • Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.

Fainting (syncope) can be common among adolescents immediately after getting shots. To help prevent any injuries that could occur from a fall while fainting, your preteen or teen should stay seated for 15 minutes after the shot.

Before you leave the appointment, ask your child’s doctor for advice on using non-aspirin pain reliever and other steps you can take at home to comfort your child.

Remember to schedule your next visit! Stay current with your child’s vaccinations for the best protection against disease.

After the shots

Sometimes children experience mild reactions from shots, such as pain at the injection site, a rash or a fever. These reactions are normal and will soon go away. These tips will help you identify and minimize mild side effects:

  • Read the Vaccine Information Sheet(s) your child’s doctor gave you to learn about side effects your child may experience.
  • Use a cool, damp cloth to help reduce redness, soreness and/or swelling at in the place where the shot was given.
  • Reduce fever with a lukewarm water sponge bath.
  • Offer liquids more often. It is normal for some children to eat less during the 24 hours after getting vaccines.
  • Ask your child’s doctor if you can give your child a non-aspirin pain reliever.
  • Pay extra attention to your child for a few days. If you see something that concerns you, call your child’s doctor.

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