Family Health Guide

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Vaccines: Age-by-Age Guide

The classic line about vaccines is that it can be more painful for you than it is for your child. While a shot may hurt, most kids get over it quickly. Though it’s hard, try not to show your stress at the doctor’s office since children of all ages can pick up on your nonverbal cues.

Here’s how to soothe your child at every age:

A half-hour before the appointment (or while you’re there), you can give your baby a dose of acetaminophen; check with your doctor about dosing. If you’re really worried (or the last shot didn’t go so well), you can ask your doctor about using a topical prescription anesthetic cream like EMLA. You’ll need to apply it about an hour before the shot. Many infants will cry out during the shot, but recover quickly. During the shot, you can give her a pacifier to suck (a pacifier dipped in sugar water has been shown to reduce pain) or distract her with a toy. Afterwards, nursing or cuddling can help calm her down.

Preschoolers/Older Kids
As your children get older, you’ll spend more time dealing with the buildup and anxiety about the shot. You can wait until the day of the appointment to tell your child about her checkup; this way she has less time to worry about it. To ease the pain, you can give a dose of acetaminophen a half-hour before the shot. You can also request a prescription topical anesthetic cream like EMLA that needs to be applied about an hour before the shot. Bringing along a lovey for a younger child or a surprise treat for an older one (M&Ms can have healing powers!) can offer critical distraction post-shot.