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Helping Children During Immunizations

Overview

Helping your infant feel better

Your infant (newborn to 12 months) is less likely to be uncomfortable or upset after getting a shot if he or she is not hungry or tired. You can also help your baby during and after the shot by providing gentle comfort and reassurance.

The following strategies may help you.

  • See that your baby has a good nap 2 to 4 hours before getting the vaccine.
  • Feed your baby 1 to 2 hours before the shot.
  • Provide your baby comfort and reassurance during and after the shot.
    • Breastfeed.
    • Wrap your older baby snugly in a blanket, offer a pacifier, or hold and soothe him or her.
    • Distract your baby with toys or soothing conversation.

Helping your toddler or young child feel better

The following strategies may help decrease discomfort related to immunizations in your toddler (12 months to 3 years) or young child (3 to 9 years).

  • Talk to your child about the upcoming doctor visit.

    Talk generally about the visit, but don't talk about the immunization.

  • Talk to your child about the immunization at the doctor's office, right before it happens.
    • Tell your child that he or she will feel a little prick that may sting. Don't be overly reassuring.
    • Avoid words like "shot" or "hurt." These can have strong meanings to young children, which can raise their fear of immunizations.
    • Never suggest that vaccines are being given as punishment for misbehavior.
  • Act calm and confident to put your child at ease.
    • If your child complains, don't criticize your child or apologize. Say that you understand, but that it's important to get vaccinated.
  • Ease tension by distracting your child during the shot.
    • Blow bubbles.
    • Read a book to your child.
    • Talk about fun activities.

Helping your older child or teen feel better

When your school-age child or teen needs immunizations, talk with them about what to expect. Address any misconceptions. This may help reduce the discomfort of injections.

  • Ask your child what has helped in the past.
  • Teach your child to use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or thinking about pleasant things.
  • Help distract your child.
    • Suggest bringing a book or computer game along.
    • Talk about subjects that interest your child.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: February 9, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine