10 Best Ways To Reduce Pain After Vaccination In Babies

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that immunization is extremely important for babies and can protect them from more than 14 serious childhood illnesses (1). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most childhood vaccines exhibit a 90% to 99% efficacy in preventing these diseases. Certain vaccines help develop herd immunity against contagious diseases caused by deadly viruses(like measles, rubella, and rotavirus) and improve public health. Managing the pain after vaccination in babies is crucial, and as a new parent, the first thing you’d probably want to do is find ways to reduce the pain.

The benefit of vaccines is that they outweigh the minor discomfort caused by the pain after inoculation. In this article, we discuss the possible after-effects of vaccination on your baby and tell you how you can help reduce pain.

In This Article

Tips To Manage The Pain After Vaccination For Babies

Pain is a common after-effect of vaccination. Minimizing pain can help make vaccination less intimidating and stressful both for the newborns or infants and the parents. Babies exhibit lesser fear of needles and fewer healthcare avoidance behaviors on growing up when the pain from vaccination was managed better (2).

The following are some suggested tips to manage the pain after vaccination in infants.

1. Give some quiet time

The baby might be irritated and exhausted due to crying after the vaccine. Put the baby in a comfortable, temperature-controlled, and quiet room. Dress them in loose, comfortable, breathable clothes.

2. Hold the baby

Skin contact may reduce distress after vaccination in babies

Image: Shutterstock

Hold the baby close to yourself during and after vaccination. The baby might get the feeling of safety and will be less distressed by your skin contact. The CDC recommends holding and comforting the baby during vaccination to prevent the baby from moving his/her limbs (3).

protip_icon Point to consider
Avoid excessive restraint when holding the infant for vaccinations as it may increase their distress (10).

3. Touch and soothe the baby

A study on determining the effective physical interventions to reduce pain after vaccination proved the “5 S” to be relaxing to the baby (4). The “5 S” are swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking.

4. Distract the baby

Distraction is defined as the use of strategies to take an individual’s attention away from the procedure (2). A new toy, book, bubbles, or a simple game of peek-a-boo might help in distracting the baby, and making vaccination less stressful.

5. Breastfeed

Breastfeeding during or after vaccination comforts the baby

Image: Shutterstock

Breastfeeding is believed to have an analgesic effect on babies due to several reasons like skin-to-skin contact, the soothing effect of sucking, being held by the mother, and the sweet taste of breastmilk. The mother may start breastfeeding the baby before the injection is administered and continue doing it during the vaccination procedure as well. However, if the mother and the baby are not comfortable with this arrangement, then feeding pumped milk through a bottle or formula feeding might also work (2).

6. Give sweet-tasting solutions

Administering sweet-tasting solutions might help in distracting and calming the baby. Studies have shown that giving a few drops of a sweet solution before the procedure, or giving a pacifier dipped in a sweet solution during the procedure, might ease the baby. However, this method is only recommended when the baby cannot be breastfed or formula-fed for some reason (2). Consult the doctor before choosing a sweet solution, like sugar syrup, for your baby. Never give honey to babies below the age of 12 months since it has the potential to cause gastrointestinal infection.

7. Apply cool pack

Applying cool packs of ice might help alleviate pain after vaccines. The application of a cool pack makes the skin numb, and thus reduces pain at the site of injection. Remember, not all infants might be able to tolerate the coolness of ice and might cry when touched with an ice pack. Discuss it with your pediatrician before using any cool packs for your baby (2).

protip_icon Quick tip
You can use a cool, damp cloth as an alternative to cool packs, to reduce soreness, swelling, and pain at the injection site (11).

8. Give more liquids

If you are exclusively breastfeeding the baby, then continue doing the same after vaccination too. But if you have already started giving solids to the baby, then they might consume only liquid and eat lesser than usual for the first 24 hours (3). In such a case, you can consider feeding a liquid diet of purees, soups, and mashed food. Feed the baby whatever he/she is comfortable in consuming for a day after vaccination.

9. Use topical anesthetics

Applying topical anesthetic agents might help in relieving pain from the vaccination. Topical anesthetics are available as rub-on gels as well as sprays. The gels might take an hour to show their effectiveness. Discuss with the pediatrician before using any over-the-counter (OTC) anesthetic agents (2).

10. Administer oral analgesics

Prescription analgesics may help maintain vaccination pain in babies

Image: IStock

The doctors might prescribe medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to manage pain after vaccination. However, these medicines are given after considering the baby’s weight, age, and general health. Do not give any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to the baby without consulting the doctor (5).

protip_icon Did you know?
If left unaddressed, injection pain in infancy and early childhood may make a child develop pre-procedural anxiety, fear of needles, and avoidance behaviors, such as skipping immunization (10).

Other Possible After-Effects Of Vaccination

The pediatrician usually informs what reactions to expect after administering a vaccine or a booster to the infant. The following are the common side effects of vaccinations (6).

  • Localized reactions like redness, swelling, and pain at the site of injection.
Localized reaction at the vaccination site in babies

Image: Shutterstock

  • Fever due to vaccines starts within 24 hours of vaccine administration and may last for one or two days.
  • Delayed reactions of fever and rash after chickenpox and MMR shots. These reactions appear anytime between one to four weeks after taking the doses.
  • Very rarely, severe anaphylactic reactionsiotentially life-threatening allergic reaction with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, hives, and facial/throat/tongue swelling to vaccines occur. They may start after two hours of vaccine administration. They need immediate medical attention.

If you suspect anything unusual in your baby’s health after vaccination, then contact the doctor immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How long does vaccination pain last in babies?

All local reactions to vaccines like swelling, redness, and pain start within 24 hours of vaccine administration. They last for three to five days. Some vaccines, like DtaP, can cause pain that may last for up to seven days (6).

2. Can I give paracetamol before vaccination?

It is not generally recommended to use paracetamol for babies who are going to be vaccinated. However, if the baby develops severe distress due to fever or pain after vaccination, giving paracetamol may be recommended after vaccination.

3. Is it safe to give a bath to my baby after vaccination?

Yes, it is okay to bathe the baby after vaccination. Remember to be gentle while cleaning the area where the injection was administered. If the baby has a fever due to vaccines, then you can give a sponge bath instead (7).

4. Do babies sleep more after vaccinations?

Some studies have shown that babies sleep more for a day after they have been vaccinated. A study observed that babies showed an increase in sleep for 24 hours, especially when they were vaccinated in the afternoon, after 1:30 PM (8). However, the case can vary for each baby. If you find the baby to be extremely lethargic, dull, and sleepy after vaccination, then see the doctor.

5. Should babies born prematurely receive vaccines at the general recommended age?

Yes, babies who are born prematurely should receive all the vaccination as per the normal vaccination schedule. Premature babies have a lower immunity as they receive fewer antibodies from the maternal placenta, and thus, must be vaccinated. If the baby weighs less than 2kg at birth, then vaccines like hepatitisiInflammatory condition of the liver caused by viral infections or other factors B might be given after the baby achieves a weight of 2kg (9).

6. Is it okay to delay vaccination for babies?

Dr. Andrea Wadley, MD, IBCLC, a physician and lactation consultant from Colleyville, Texas, says, “Vaccine schedules are based on the soonest possible time that it is safe to give a certain vaccine and at a time when the baby will need the most protection. Delaying the vaccine will put the baby at risk of getting the disease.”

7. What is the 6-in-1 vaccine for babies?

The 6-in-1 vaccine contains six antigensiMolecules that can trigger an immune response in the body all in one vaccine. So, instead of getting several injections to become immunized against these diseases, VaxelisiA combination vaccine that protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, Haemophilus influenzae type b, and hepatitis B allows us to give them all at once. It contains antigens to diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, inactivated polio, haemophilus b conjugate, and hepatitis B all in one vaccine,” Dr. Wadley adds.

8. What is the earliest a baby may receive a vaccination?

It is advisable that your baby gets the initial shot of the vaccination shortly after being born. The hepatitis B vaccine should be given within 24 hours of birth (12).

These are a few tips you could take to reduce the discomfort caused by vaccination in babies. After the vaccination, dress your baby in comfortable clothing that wouldn’t rub on the injection site frequently. Caress your baby when in pain and try soothing techniques. Although the period immediately after vaccination might be stressful for you, understand that this is only temporary. As the days progress, the pain of vaccination would fade away, and your baby would start to feel relaxed. Also, keep a close eye on the baby after the injection and consult a doctor promptly if they show any concerning signs or adverse reactions.

Infographic: Tips For A Baby’s Vaccination

When scheduling your baby’s vaccination, knowing about things to carry will make the process hassle-free. Here is an infographic with valuable tips to help you plan your baby’s vaccination day efficiently.

baby vaccination things to consider (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Preparing the skin before the shot can help minimize discomfort by numbing and making the area less sensitive.
  • Distracting the baby with toys, singing, or a pacifier during the shot can help to take their attention off the discomfort.
  • Breastfeeding or providing the baby with a bottle before or after the shot can help calm the baby and relieve pain.
  • Gently massaging or hugging the baby close might bring comfort and relieve pain.
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can assist in reducing swelling and discomfort post-vaccination.
Vaccination In Babies_illustration

Image: Dall·E/MomJunction Design Team

Your child must be vaccinated at the right time. Children may sometimes have reactions to vaccines which is a normal occurrence. Watch this video to learn about what to expect when your child is vaccinated and how vaccines work to protect them from disease.

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. NIIW (National Infant Immunization Week); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. Anna Taddio et al., Reducing the pain of childhood vaccination: an evidence-based clinical practice guideline; U.S. National Library of Medicine
3. How to Hold Your Child During Vaccination; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4. Harrington JW et al., Effective analgesia using physical interventions for infant immunizations; U.S. National Library of Medicine
5. After the Shots; Immunize organization
6. Immunization Reactions; Seattle Children’s
7. My baby has some redness and pus on BCG injection site. How could I take care of this condition?; Family Health Service Hong Kong
8. Linda Franck et al., Infant Sleep After Immunization: Randomized Controlled Trial of Prophylactic Acetaminophen; U.S. National Library of Medicine
9. Arnaud Gagneur, Didier Pinquier, and Caroline Quach, Immunization of preterm infants; U.S. National Library of Medicine
10. Anna Taddio et al.; Reducing the pain of childhood vaccination: an evidence-based clinical practice guideline; CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal
11. Before, During, and After Shots; CDC
12. Vaccines Shortly after Birth; CDC

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Dr. Nikolina Zdraveska is a pediatrician, educator and a researcher, with around 15 years in the field. Currently, she is working at University Children Hospital in Skopje, Macedonia. Dr. Zdraveska has received her medical degree from the Medical Faculty of Skopje in her native Macedonia and completed Residency Training at University Children’s Hospital in Skopje.

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  • Dr. Andrea Wadley
    Dr. Andrea WadleyMD, IBCLC Dr. Andrea Wadley is the owner and head pediatrician at 127 Pediatrics, a home visit-only direct primary care pediatric and lactation practice based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. She graduated with a medical degree in 2007 from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and did his residency at the same university.
    Dr. Andrea Wadley is the owner and head pediatrician at 127 Pediatrics, a home visit-only direct primary care pediatric and lactation practice based in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas. She graduated with a medical degree in 2007 from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and did his residency at the same university.
Dr. Ritika Shah is a certified lactation counsellor (CLC) from iNational Health Care Academy, Singapore and a dental surgeon with more than seven years of clinical experience across various cities in India. She did her graduation in Dentistry from KM Shah Dental College.

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Rohit GarooBSc, MBA
Rohit Garoo is a writer-turned-editor with over 9 years of experience in content writing, editing, and content marketing. He did his bachelors in Science at St. Xavier's College, Hyderabad, and masters in Business Administration at Osmania University.

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Shinta is a biotechnologist who is highly intrigued by science and technology. She holds a master's degree in Biotechnology from Karunya Institute of Technology and Sciences and a PG Diploma in cellular and molecular diagnostics from Manipal University.

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