Many children (and parents) find immunisation visits are an easy and relatively pain-free experience. For some children (and parents) however, needles can be scary, especially on the first visit. Here's some basic information to help you manage the visit as well as possible, and give you some tips on caring for your child before, during and after.
Children can easily tell when their parents are anxious and, as a parent, you need to be aware that your child will look to you for comfort and reassurance.
Before and during the immunisation
Remain calm and relaxed, even if your child becomes upset.
Bring along a stuffed toy or blanket for your child to hold during the immunisation, or use it to distract them.
Hold your child firmly during the procedure, talking calmly and gently stroking the child’s arm or back to reassure them.
After the immunisation
After being pricked by the needle your child may cry for a brief time, it’s their way of coping. Your job is to comfort, hold, and talk to them supportively.
Feeding your baby straight after their immunisation will help them settle.
You will need to remain in the clinic for 20 minutes after the immunisation. Use this time to help your child settle, this can help make the next visit easier.
Most children experience little or no ill effects after immunisations. Some of the minor effects reported are mild fever, tenderness or swelling and redness at the site of the injection. Here are some ways to make your baby or child more comfortable after their immunisation:
- Don’t rub the injection site
- Give your child lots of cuddles and lots of fluids
- If you are breastfeeding, give lots of feeds
- An ice pack wrapped well in a dry cloth or better still a cool cloth, can be held over the injection site if it is sore
- If your child gets hot, undressing them down to a single layer, for example a singlet and pants, can help
- Make sure the room is not too hot or too cold.
Medication for temperature or pain
If your child is unsettled and miserable because of a fever or seems to be in pain, you might consider giving them paracetamol or ibuprofen to make them feel more comfortable. You must follow the dosage instructions on the bottle. It is dangerous to give more than the recommended dose.
Giving babies and children paracetamol before and repeatedly after immunisation just in case they feel unwell is NOT recommended and can interfere with the immune response.
Tips for older children
Older children can get bored easily waiting around, so take some favourite books or toys along. You can really help take the anxiety out of the visit by using distraction techniques such as talking to your child and getting them to play imaginary games while the immunisation is happening. Get them to blow out as though blowing bubbles; play a favourite word game or something you know they enjoy.