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What to Expect — for Parents

It’s normal to have questions when it’s time for your child to get vaccinated. The good news is that being prepared can make getting vaccinated less stressful — for both you and your child.

Below you’ll find information to help you learn what to expect before, during, and after your child’s appointment.

Before the appointment

There are steps you can take before your child’s appointment to help things go more smoothly at the doctor’s office.

Find your child’s vaccination records

It can be helpful to bring your child’s vaccination records to the appointment so the doctor knows which vaccines they’ve already had. If you can’t find your child’s vaccination records, you can:

  • Ask your child’s doctor — or doctors they’ve seen in the past.
  • Call your state health department to see if they have a copy of your child’s vaccination records.
  • Check to see if your child’s school or daycare has vaccination records on file.

Learn more about finding your child’s vaccination records.

Talk to your child

If your child is old enough, try talking with them about what to expect at the appointment. This can help them feel more comfortable. Use these tips to talk with your child:

  • Explain that vaccines help keep us healthy.
  • Tell your child that shots can hurt a little — but not for long.

Tip: If your child has a favorite blanket or toy, consider bringing it to the appointment to help comfort your child.

During the appointment

It’s important to know what to discuss with the doctor during your child’s appointment. You can also learn strategies for comforting your child while they get vaccinated.

Get the facts about vaccines

During your vaccination appointment, the doctor is required to give you a Vaccine Information Statement (VIS) that explains the benefits and risks of a vaccine. If your child’s doctor doesn’t give you one, you can ask for it. Learn more about VISs.

Tell the doctor if your child is sick

Be sure to let the doctor know if your child isn’t feeling well on the day they’re supposed to get vaccinated. Children who have a mild illness — like a low fever or a cold — may still be able to get vaccines. If your child has a more serious illness, you may need to come back when they’re feeling better.

Some children may not be able to get certain vaccines — or may need to wait to get them. Tell the doctor if your child:

  • Has a long-term health condition, like cancer
  • Is taking medicine that can weaken their immune system
  • Has had a severe allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past

Learn more about who should not get vaccinated.

Comfort your child

You may be able to hold your child during the vaccination. Holding your child can comfort them while they get the shot. Additionally:

  • Activities that bring you close to your baby — like swaddling or breastfeeding — can help soothe them after the shot. Get more tips for making shots less stressful for your baby.
  • You can help your older child feel calm by reminding them to breathe deeply — or distracting them by telling stories or pointing out things in the room.

Teens and preteens can sometimes faint after a shot, so it’s important to have them sit down during their vaccination and for 15 minutes after they get vaccinated.

Before you leave the appointment, ask the doctor if there are any steps you can take to help your child feel more comfortable. For example, having your child move their arm around after vaccination may help with pain and swelling.

After the appointment

Most people don’t have any serious side effects after getting vaccinated. The most common side effects are usually mild. They include:

  • Pain, swelling, or redness where the shot was given
  • Mild fever
  • Chills
  • Feeling tired
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches

If your child has mild side effects, you can take steps to help them feel better. For example:

  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids.
  • Put a cool, wet washcloth on places where they’re sore.
  • If the doctor approves, you can give your child a non-aspirin pain reliever.

It’s very unlikely that your child will have serious side effects from a vaccine. If you see anything that concerns you, call your child’s doctor.

To learn more:

Last reviewed: January 2018