Vaccination tips for parents

Practical advice for parents who want vaccination without tears, including how to dress your child and choosing pain relief

Fussy clothing, fear and being in a hurry are the main problems to avoid when taking your child for a jab. With common sense and forward planning, getting vaccinated doesn't have to be troublesome for either you or your child.

Some parents mistakenly think that having a vaccination is similar to having a blood test. The good news is that vaccination is much quicker, simpler and less painful.

Wear the right clothes

Wearing the right clothes can save you time and effort at the surgery.

If you want your child to have a trouble-free vaccination, avoid chunky, padded or tight-fitting clothes with lots of buttons and straps. They take time to remove and put back on.

Choose clothes that you can remove or roll up easily. Babies under 12 months have jabs in the thigh. Older children have them in the arm. Thin cotton layers fastened with poppers are perfect for babies, and loose or short sleeves are ideal for older children.

Time it right

Give yourself enough time to get to your appointment without having to rush. Don't put pressure on yourself to be in and out of the surgery quickly.

Ideally, allow yourself an hour. Clinics can run behind schedule and you need time to ask the nurse questions. If you rush, you may get stressed. Your child will sense that and become anxious.

Stay calm

It's natural to be worried when your baby or child is having a vaccination. You may be concerned that the doctor or nurse will hurt them. Try to stay calm and treat the procedure in a matter-of-fact way. If you're anxious, your child may sense this and also become anxious and restless.

Usually, the nurse will ask you to hold your child on your knee. If the injection is given quickly, your child won't even see the needle or notice that anything has happened. If you're nervous about seeing your child having an injection, ask a nurse or another member of staff to hold them for you.

Older children generally find it less traumatic if parents explain to them that vaccination is a good thing. Use plain language to prepare your child for what's going to happen at the surgery.

Give a painkiller if needed

Vaccinations shouldn't hurt, although the area where the injection takes place can be sore and red afterwards.

Your child may develop a mild fever (a temperature greater than 37.5ºC). If this happens after the vaccination, you can give them infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring their temperature down.

Be aware of allergic reactions

A serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a vaccination is rare. However, if this does happen, it's rapid and usually happens within minutes. The people who give vaccinations are trained to deal with anaphylactic reactions and, with treatment, children recover completely.

Before the injection, tell the nurse about any bad reactions your child has had after any previous vaccinations.

Children rarely faint after a vaccination. If your child is prone to fainting, ask if they can have the vaccination lying down.

Advice for relatives

If a relative is taking your child for their vaccinations, they must have a letter written and signed by you. Relatives or friends (including fathers who don't have parental responsibility) need permission from the person who has parental responsibility. 

Page last reviewed: 04/04/2014

Next review due: 04/04/2016


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