Vaccinations often leave your little one upset or in tears — which can be tough on you as a parent, seeing your child receive pokes to the arm or leg when getting their shots. However, understanding the importance of vaccines, combined with knowing simple tips before, during and after shots, can help ease any worries and stress — both for you and your child.
How vaccines prevent disease
Infections occur when bacteria or viruses invade the body and multiply, which can cause illness. Once the body fights infection, a supply of cells remains to develop immunity, which helps recognize and fight the disease in the future.
Vaccines help prevent diseases by mimicking infection and allowing the body to safely develop immunity without causing illness.
Dr. Matthew Messoline, a board-certified Family Medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group, recommends vaccinations for children early in life, in accordance with the schedule from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“The vaccine schedule is designed to protect your child at the earliest age possible — before they are likely to be exposed to potentially serious diseases, and when they are most vulnerable to infections,” says Dr. Messoline. “Children are susceptible to diseases at a young age. The consequences of these diseases can be dangerous and sometimes life-threatening.”
Although the main risks associated with vaccines are their side effects, Dr. Messoline says they are almost always mild, and more serious side effects are very rare. “For almost all children, the benefits of preventing diseases outweigh the possible risk of side effects,” he stresses.
Dr. Messoline adds that it is important to understand that vaccines are very safe, and the U.S. has the safest, most effective vaccine supply in its history.
“Millions of children are safely vaccinated each year,” he says.
Ways to support your infant or young child before, during and after shots
To help make shot visits to the doctor a smooth one for you and your child, Dr. Messoline offers the following suggestions:
Before the visit:
- Read up on vaccines to learn about benefits and risks
- Bring your child’s personal immunization record to the appointment
- Bring your child’s favorite book, toy or blanket
At the doctor’s office:
- Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing or speaking in a calm, reassuring voice
- Smile and make eye contact, and let your child know that everything is OK
- Comfort your child with a favorite toy, book or blanket
- For babies, try these soothing tips once all shots are given:
* Skin-to-skin contact
After the visit:
- Review information that outlines what the side effects may be
- Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness, soreness and swelling at the injection site
- Reduce any fever with a tepid sponge bath (85 to 90° F), and if approved by the doctor, give a non-aspirin pain reliever
- Give extra liquids, as it’s common for kids to eat less than normal during the 24 hours after getting the vaccines
- Pay extra attention to your child for the next few days and call the doctor if you notice anything that concerns you
If you are a Sharp HealthCare patient and have a FollowMyHealth account, you can easily access your child’s immunization records — right in your doctor’s office — using the FollowMyHealth mobile app on your smartphone.