Pain at the time of vaccine injection is a common concern amongst parents worldwide. However, many children and parents find immunisation visits are an easy and relatively pain-free experience. For some children and parents, needles can also be scary especially on the first visit.
This resource is designed to help you manage the immunisation visit as well as possible and give you some tips on caring for your child before, during and after immunisation. 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. Note, in the case of MenB Bexsero meningococcal B vaccinations - see the section at the bottom of the page in addition to these tips for child vaccination in general.
Vaccine responses such as mild to moderate fever, or redness, swelling, discomfort or pain at the injection site are normal and common responses to immunisation. They can occur as your child’s immune system learns to protect them from the diseases covered by the vaccines. But don’t worry if your child doesn’t have any visible immunisation responses, their immune system will still be learning what to do.
Immunisation responses can been seen as early as 4–6 hours after immunisation and usually start to settle down 24–48 hours after immunisation. There are some things you can do if the immunisation responses are making your child feel miserable or distressed.
The use of paracetamol around the time of immunisation reduces the laboratory measured immune system response to immunisation, but there is no evidence that the reduced response leaves children with less protection from the diseases they were immunised against.
We do not recommend giving paracetamol before or after immunisation with most childhood vaccines (except Bexsero MenB - see below) just in case of fever or injection site discomfort. However, if your child has a fever or seems to have discomfort and they are miserable or distressed we do recommend the use of paracetamol. You must follow the dosage instructions on the bottle; it is dangerous to give more than the recommended dose.
The recommendation for MenB Bexsero®, a purchased immunisation against meningococcal group B disease, when given to children aged under 2 years is different. This is because fever and injection site discomfort or pain are more likely to occur with Bexsero compared with other childhood vaccines. A fever over 38°C or 39°C is almost twice as likely as when Bexsero is administered at the same visit as other Immunisation Schedule vaccines than when the Immunisation Schedule vaccines are given alone.
Ibuprofen may be given as an alternative to paracetamol.
If you are concerned about your child after their immunisation, contact your family doctor or nurse. You can also call Healthline 0800 611 116 day or night.
Vaccines are prescription medicines. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the benefits or any risks.