Use These Tips for Low-Stress Vaccine Visits


As children begin summer vacation, there’s no time like now to set up a doctor’s appointment for vaccines for the next school year. Waiting until late in the summer, when there is a rush to get immunizations before the school year begins, can make it challenging to line up an appointment. So don’t wait.

Trips to the doctor for vaccines can be stressful for children and parents, but they don’t have to be. To make immunization appointments as stress free as possible, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tips to prepare you and your child for vaccine visits.

Before the Visit

  • Read vaccine-related materials from your child’s healthcare professional and write down any questions.
  • Use the CDC’s Instant Childhood Immunization Schedule to see which shots are recommended for your child’s age.
  • Learn about benefits and risks of each vaccine your child will receive by reviewing Vaccine Information Statements (VIS).
  • Bring your child’s immunization record to the appointment.
  • Remind older children that vaccines can keep them healthy.
  • Be honest. Tell your child that shots may sting but it won’t hurt for long.
  • For younger children, bring along their favorite toy or book or blanket to help comfort them.

During the Visit

Your doctor should give you Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for the shots your child will receive that day. If they don’t give you each VIS, you can request them.

Tips for babies and young children

  1. Distract and comfort your child by cuddling, singing or talking softly.
  2. Let your child know everything is OK. Comfort your child with a favorite toy, book or blanket.
  3. Hold your child firmly on your lap.
  4. After a baby has received all shots, try soothing them by breastfeeding, swaddling, skin-to-skin contact or offering juice (if the child is older than one year).

Tips for older children and adolescents

  1. Take deep breaths with your child to help “blow out” the pain.
  2. Come up with distractions, such as point out interesting things in the room.
  3. Tell or read stories.
  4. Provide support if you child cries. Never criticize a child for not “being brave.”

After the Shots

  1. Fainting is common among teenagers or preteens following shots. Your preteen or teen should stay seated for 15 minutes after the shot.
  2. Children can sometimes experience mild reactions, such as pain in the injection spot, a rash or a fever. These reactions are normal and will soon go away

Here are suggestions to help reduce mild side effects:

  • Review information you receive from the doctor about the shots, especially the Vaccine Information Statements or other sheets that discuss side effects.
  • Use a cool, wet cloth to reduce redness, soreness and swelling in the shot area.
  • Reduce fever with a cool sponge bath. If you doctor approves, provide non-aspirin pain reliever.
  • Give plenty of liquid to your child.
  • Pay extra attention to your child. If you see something that concerns you, call your doctor.

Change in HPV Schedule

Parents should be aware of a change in the CDC’s recommended human papillomavirus(HPV) vaccine schedule. Children who receive their first HPV shot before their 15th birthday will now need only two doses spaced six months apart. If the child is 15 or older for the first dose, he or she will continue to need three shots over a six-month period.

This change makes it easier for kids to complete the HPV vaccine series, with extra motivation to get the first shot early. The series is routinely given at age 11 or 12. Get more information on HPV vaccines.

Additional Resources

In order to start preschool, pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and seventh grade, children in Tennessee must have certain required vaccines. Read more about immunizations.

Get a summary of required immunizations for childcare facilities, schools and colleges. 

Learn about eligibility requirements for the Vaccines for Children program in Tennessee.