Guest post by: Andrew Kroger, M.D., M.P.H., medical officer for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
As a parent and a physician, I know how important it is for children to be vaccinated on time. Making sure they get all of their vaccines according to CDC’s immunization schedule is the most important thing parents can do to protect children from 14 serious childhood diseases before they turn 2 years old.
Unfortunately, understanding the importance of vaccination doesn’t make the shot visit at the doctor’s office any easier. Here are a few simple ways you can support your child to help create a less stressful experience for everyone.
Keep a record
Keep your child’s immunization record in a safe place where you can easily locate it for your appointments. You can get an immunization tracking card from your pediatrician or use CDC’s Immunization Tracker to record immunizations, developmental milestones, and growth from birth through 6 years old. Nationwide Children’s also has a mobile app with a customized section for your child’s immunization schedules, developmental milestones, and more. If you’d like a personalized vaccine schedule for your child, you can put your child’s birth date into this immunization scheduler and see what month he’ll need each vaccine.
Ask the doctor or nurse to record the vaccine given, date, and dosage on your immunization record. It’s also a good idea to note the office or clinic where your child got the shot, which makes the process of gathering official records much easier down the line.
Distract and comfort
Bring a favorite toy, book, or blanket to your appointment. Talking softly, smiling, and making eye contact helps your child know that everything is fine when he’s getting his shots. Swaddling your baby or providing skin-to-skin contact is a great way to soothe your baby after vaccines. Many mothers also report breastfeeding after shots helps calm their babies.
For infants and toddlers who are getting a vaccine in a leg, hold your child in your lap and place his arms under one of your own and around your back, applying gentle pressure for a secure, hug-like hold. Use your free hand to hold his other arm gently and then anchor his feet firmly between your thighs. This kind of hold embraces your child without overpowering him and allows the health care professional steady control of the injection site.
For parents of older children getting a vaccine in an arm, you can either hold your child on your lap facing out, or have him stand in front of you facing out while you are seated. Embrace him during the process and anchor both of his legs between your thighs to keep steady.
Keep your child comfortable at home
Sometimes children experience mild reactions from vaccines, such as pain at the injection site, a rash or a fever. These reactions are normal and go away quickly. Review any information your doctor gives you about the shots, including the Vaccine Information Statements that outline which side effects might be expected.
Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce any soreness at the injection site. It’s normal for some children to eat less during the 24 hours after getting vaccines; just make sure they get lots of liquids.
Your child’s doctor is your best resource. If you have questions about the childhood immunization schedule, the vaccines your child is receiving, or side effects associated with vaccines, talk with your child’s doctor. For more information about vaccines, you can also visit this page.