Home / How To Make Shots Less Stressful for Children
Feb 8, 2023

How To Make Shots Less Stressful for Children

Vaccinations are important for maintaining good health at every age, but more so for young children. If your child/children have missed recommended vaccinations over the past few years, now is the time to bring their immunizations up to date. Not just for COVID-19, but also to protect against the flu, measles, whooping cough and other highly contagious diseases.

Getting vaccination shots can be stressful for children and parents, especially for young children old enough to remember a previous shot. Fortunately, there are many ways to minimize vaccination stress and the discomfort and anxiety a child experiences. It is especially important for parents/caregivers to understand their role in helping decrease any fear of shots associated with child vaccinations.

The information in this blog provides vaccination tips and will help reduce the stress of a vaccination visit by presenting ways to prepare, comfort, and make shots easier for children, parents, and providers.

How to Prepare for a Shot

Knowing what to expect can reduce your stress as the parent/caregiver and your child’s fear of shots. The first step is to learn about the type of vaccines your child needs and their benefits and risks. Your pediatrician can provide materials that cover these and other important vaccination information.

Check our Immunization Guide for an immunization schedule from newborn to 18 years.

Next, compile a list of vaccines your child may need. The Child and Adolescent Vaccine Assessment Tool on the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website will help you identify the right vaccines based on your child’s age, health, and other factors. CDC Vaccine Information Statements also provide useful information. Be sure to bring your child’s immunization record to the vaccination appointment so the doctor knows which shots have already been received.

When your children are old enough, have an honest talk with them about why it’s important to get vaccinated. Let them know the shot can pinch or sting but it won’t hurt for very long. Avoid telling stories that can arouse fear of shots, such as recalling how scared you were as a kid. Older siblings can help reduce vaccination anxiety by saying their shots weren’t difficult.

“We encourage parents or caregivers to present information about vaccines to their kids as a good thing that is really important for their overall health,” says TrueCare’s Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Meara Henley, DNP.

What To Do During the Appointment

A parent or caregiver’s role is to support the child and make them feel comfortable during the vaccination. For babies and younger children, cuddling, singing, or talking softly can help them relax and feel comfortable. Smiling and making plenty of eye contact reassures your child that everything will be okay. A book, toy, blanket, or other favorite object can also provide comfort.

With older children, distract them from worrying about the upcoming shot by talking about interesting things in the room. Telling or reading stories can also focus their attention on something other than the shot.

If your child cries before or during the shot, be supportive. Have them take deep breaths with you to help minimize the pain, and never criticize or berate your child for not being brave.

At TrueCare, our Pediatric providers can provide shot blockers, if available, which has been clinically shown to decrease the pain sensation.

How to Comfort Your Child After Shots

Your role as comforter doesn’t end after the shot. This is the time to hold and cuddle your child while being extra supportive. Swaddling, skin-to-skin contact, and breastfeeding are good ways to soothe babies. For children older than 6 months, a sweet beverage can have a calming effect. Giving praise and hugs in a calm, gentle voice reassures your child that everything is okay.

Some patients may experience a fainting sensation immediately after the shot or several minutes later. To avoid potential injuries, your clinic’s staff will have your adolescent child remain seated for 15 minutes before leaving the medical center. Some children experience uncomfortable symptoms such as fever, rash or pain at the injection site after receiving a shot. These reactions tend to be mild and typically go away after a short time.

Placing a cool, damp cloth on the injection site can reduce redness, soreness and/or swelling. A sponge bath in lukewarm water can help reduce fever. Some children experience a loss of appetite in the day following a vaccination. This is a normal reaction, so don’t be concerned if they eat less for a day or two. Have your child drink more liquids to stay hydrated, and contact your pediatrician if symptoms last more than a few days.

How to Hold Your Child During Vaccination

Holding young children gently but securely facing you in your lap during the shot provides a sense of safety and comfort. It also enables the doctor to safely control the limb receiving the shot and the injection site. It also prevents the child from seeing the needle. Your doctor may prefer to use a different hold or have the child on the examination table during the injection.

View these photos for suggested holds and embraces.

9 Vaccination Tips: Ways to Minimize Vaccination Stress:

1. Learn about vaccines.

Knowing what to expect will lower your stress level and that of your child.

2. Reduce the pain response with sweet liquids.

Giving your child (between six months and two years old) a sweet solution of sucrose or glucose prior to the injection can help reduce the pain of the shot. Your pediatrician can prepare this upon request.

3. Breastfeed.

Breastfeeding works well to calm and relax your baby by distracting him or her and providing the comfort of close contact.

4. Use shot blockers.

These small tools majorly reduce–even eliminate—the pain that comes with injections and vaccinations. In general, they are designed to apply light, nerve-stimulating pressure at the injection site, which confuses the body’s nerve signaling to the brain in the short-term, meaning the person receiving the shot won’t even feel the needle poke.

5. Prepare your child for the procedure.

Be honest with your child about what will occur. Speak in a calm voice, using words like “pressure” or “poke” instead of “pain” or “shot.” Reassure them everything will be okay.

6. Distract your child.

Bring a favorite toy, blanket, or book to help your child focus on something pleasant while you wait. Just before the shot, distract your child’s attention with a song, story or acting silly. Continue the distraction after the shot is given.

7. Use deep breathing.

Have your child take deep breaths while imagining the pain leaving their body as they exhale. Tell a story or point out interesting things in the room to focus their attention on something besides the shot.

8. Continue comforting after the shot.

Calm young infants by swaddling them. Hugs, cuddles and soft whispers can help soothe older babies.

In need of a flu or COVID-19 vaccine? Schedule an appointment at any of our TrueCare locations today. TrueCare has flu, COVID-19, and other vaccinations readily available for people of all ages through our Pediatric, Primary Care and Women’s Health services. Call or text us at 760-736-6767!

Additional Resources:

Research on Shot Blockers



The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this website.

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Jessica L. Randalls, PA
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