Where Will Your Kids Get Their Shots?

Once older kids know that they are getting vaccines, guess what the next question is that they usually ask?

That’s right.

Where are the shots going?

After a lighthearted, “where ever you want them,” I explain that shots are typically given in a child’s arm or leg.

Best Sites to Give Shots to Infants

The thigh is the best place to give shots to infants.In general:

  • newborns and infants get intramuscular (IM) shots in the vastus latrealis muscle in their anterolateral thigh
  • newborns and infants get subcutaneous vaccines in the fatty tissue overlying the anterolateral thigh muscle

So basically, through their first birthday, shots are given in a child’s leg, specifically the anterolateral thigh muscle.

Best Sites to Give Shots to Older Kids

After their first birthday, your pediatrician starts having some more options on where to give vaccines – arm vs leg.

In addition to the child’s age and degree of muscle mass, where they get their shots is often determined by how easy or hard it will be to hold them.

Subcutaneous vaccines can now be given either in the fatty tissue overlying the anterolateral thigh muscle or the triceps muscle.

The upper arm is the best place to give shots to older kids.

For intramuscular (IM) shots:

  • toddlers (1 to 2 years) – IM shots are still typically given in the child’s anterolateral thigh muscle. The deltoid muscle of their arm becomes an alternative site though if they have enough muscle mass.
  • children (3 to 10 years) – IM shots are now typically given in the deltoid muscle of the child’s upper arm. The anterolateral thigh muscle remains an option though.
  • older children (11 years and older) – IM shots are now typically given in the deltoid muscle of the child’s upper arm. The anterolateral thigh muscle remains an option though.

Notice a location that is missing?

“In the past, the upper, outer quadrant of the buttocks was the usual site of intramuscular vaccination. The buttocks should not be routinely used as a vaccination site for infants and children; and, to avoid injury to the sciatic nerves, they are generally not used in adults.”

CDC on General Recommendations on Immunization (1983)

Kids should never get a shot in their buttocks!

That being said, the ventrogluteal area is sometimes considered an alternative site for IM shots for kids over age 12 months. This is not the dorsogluteal area that was more traditionally thought of as the buttocks injection site though.

What else is missing?

That’s right. Vaccines are not injected into a child’s bloodstream! They are injected into the muscle because the relatively small amount of antigens in the vaccines act locally to trigger an immune response.

What to Know About the Best Sites to Give Shots to Kids

Where your kids get their shots is going to depend on the specific vaccines they are getting, their age, and size of their muscles, but shots typically go in their arm or leg.

More on the Best Sites to Give Shots to Kids

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