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Helping Children During Immunizations - Topic Overview

The following strategies may help decrease your child's discomfort related to immunizations.

Infant (newborn to 12 months)

Your baby is less likely to be uncomfortable or upset after an immunization if he or she is not hungry or tired.

  • See that your baby has a good nap 2 to 4 hours before the immunization is given.
  • Feed your baby 1 to 2 hours before the immunization is to be given.

During and after the immunization, you can help your baby by providing gentle comfort and reassurance.

  • Give your infant a pacifier dipped in sugar water.
  • Breast-feed.
  • 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.

Toddlers (12 months to 3 years) and young children (3 to 9 years)

Tell toddlers and young children beforehand about the upcoming visit to the doctor. But wait to talk about getting immunizations until right before it happens. Tell your child that he or she will feel a little prick that may sting. 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.

You can help ease the tension your child feels while getting a shot (injection) by using distraction techniques. For example, blow bubbles, read books, or talk about fun activities to help relax your child.

During the shot, act calm and confident. Don't increase your child's anxiety by being critical, apologetic, or overly reassuring.

Place a bandage over the area where the shot was given. Some toddlers and young children are afraid of blood or worry that medicine will leak out of the injection site.

Older children and teens (10 through 18 years)

When your school-age child or teen needs immunizations, talk about his or her expectations so you can address any misconceptions.

To 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 your child distract himself or herself. You could suggest bringing a book or computer game along and also talk about subjects of interest to your child.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 16, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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