How To Make Shots Less Stressful for Your Child or Baby

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
masked male doctor giving vaccine to young boy as masked mother looks on

When the time comes for your child to get vaccinated, you can take steps to make the experience less stressful for your child. Here are some simple ways that you can support your child before, during and after shots at the pediatrician’s office:

Prepare For Your Visit

Think about how to support your child during the vaccine visit. Explain to your child, "A vaccine is a liquid medicine that helps your body fight sickness. It is a quick poke. Some children say it feels like a pinch."

Pack your child’s favorite toy, book or blanket for comfort during vaccinations and help them to focus on their comfort object.

If your child is older, you can have a chat before the doctor’s visit that is calm and upbeat. Be honest and explain that vaccines can pinch or sting, but that it won’t hurt for long. Have other family members, especially older brothers and sisters, support your child. Help you child see vaccines as a good thing: Avoid telling scary stories or making threats about shots, and remind your child that vaccines can keep you healthy.

At the Doctor’s Office

For babies and younger children:

  • Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing, or talking softly right before the shot is given.
  • 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.

Babies also can be soothed through swaddling, skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding, all of which can calm and relax your baby beforehand.

Tasting something sweet can help reduce your child’s pain response – even a very small amount can help. For babies, breast milk has a slight sweetness, which also can help. Babies older than 6 months can be given a sweet beverage – ask your child’s doctor to give your child a sweet solution of sucrose or glucose a couple minutes before the shot.

Try distracting your child while the vaccine is administered with play dough, a stress ball, looking at an I-spy book or listening to a favorite story or song.

Say: "Your job is to take a deep breath and help your arms and legs stay still."

Once your child has received all of the shots, be especially supportive. Say, "All done!" or "Great job! I am proud of you!" Hold and cuddle your child. A soothing voice, combined with praise and hugs, will help reassure the child that everything is OK.

For older children and adolescents:

  • Point out interesting things in the room or tell or read stories to help distract their attention.
  • Support your child if he or she cries.
  • Never scold a child for not “being brave.”
  • Take deep breaths with your child and have them imagine the pain is leaving their mouth as they breathe out to help “blow out” the pain.

Fainting can be common among adolescents immediately after getting a shot. 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, as your child’s doctor for advice on using non-aspirin pain reliever and other steps you can take at home to comfort your child.

Related Links

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital provides expert pediatric care for infants, children and adolescents. With expertise in 16 medical and 12 surgical specialties, our team of doctors, nurses and other clinical staff has experience in diagnosing and treating children for a range of medical issues, from common childhood illnesses to complex conditions. Learn more about the nationally recognized medical care at UH Rainbow Babies.

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