Vaccines are one of the greatest achievements in public health.
Vaccines work. Vaccines are safe, with many benefits and few risks. Vaccines are necessary.
The great majority of us understand all of those things, but there is still one thing about most vaccines that most of us don’t like.
Shots can hurt.
Fortunately, there are many things we can learn to do to reduce the pain and anxiety that can be associated with getting vaccines.
Making Shots Hurt Less
Did you know that you can also do things that make getting a shot more stressful than it has to be?
“A smile goes a long way, especially between parents and their children. Children often take their parents’ moods into account when experiencing the world around them. Hugs, cuddles, soft whispers, and a calm, reassuring attitude will help ease children through the vaccination process. Remain upbeat and relaxed before, during, and especially after shots. Let your child know everything is ok.”
CDC on 9 Things to Make Shots Less Stressful… For You and Your Baby
In addition to staying happy and calm, you can help your child by:
- preparing them in advance so they know what to expect, but be honest and avoid telling them that “it won’t hurt” when you know that it will, at least a little bit
- making sure your pediatrician uses combination vaccines to decrease the number of shots that your child has to get at each visit
- not delaying or skipping any vaccines, so that your child doesn’t have to get shots over multiple visits or get caught up on a lot of shots when they are older
- distracting them right before and during their shots
- holding them, if possible, while they get their shots (why wouldn’t you be able to hold your child? If you don’t hold your child well, it will just prolong the whole thing and could lead to a needle getting batted away or a needle-stick injury…)
- if nursing, breastfeed during the shots, or if that isn’t possible, right after the shots are given
- considering the use of a numbing cream (they can give you a prescription if they don’t have any in the office, and just bring it to your next visit) if your child is really anxious about getting their shots
What’s the best way to help your child? It is probably to have someone that who is confident and has experience giving kids vaccines.
What should you avoid?
Don’t give your child a pain reliever before their shots. One study said that it might decrease the immune response to the vaccine, it probably won’t decrease the pain from the vaccine, and your child might not need it. Do give a pain or fever reliever afterwards if necessary though.
You also shouldn’t joke about taking your child to the doctor for a shot if they misbehave, or that the doctor is going to use a really big needle, etc.
What about commercial tools, like the Buzzy or Shot Blocker? While some people swear by them, they likely “work” as a sort of distraction.
What to Know About Making Shots Hurt Less
While needles and shots can be painful, there are ways to reduce the pain and anxiety that are associated with vaccines, so that your kids can get vaccinated and protected with minimal stress.
More on Making Shots Hurt Less
- Preparing for Vaccines
- CDC – Tips for a Less Stressful Shot Visit
- CDC – 9 Things to Make Shots Less Stressful… For You and Your Baby
- After the Shots… What to do if your child has discomfort
- Pain Relief During and After Shots
- Pain Management During Immunizations for Children
- Needles Don’t Have to Hurt
- Reduce the Pain of Vaccination in Children Under 3 Years
- WHO – Reducing pain at time of vaccination
- Vaccines are a pain: What to do about it
- WHO – Report to SAGE on reducing pain and distress at the time of vaccination
- A Spoonful of Sugar to Sweeten Vaccines’ Sting
- Study – A randomized trial of rotavirus vaccine versus sucrose solution for vaccine injection pain.