Vaccines: It Doesn't Have to Hurt - Nemours Blog


Vaccines: It Doesn’t Have to Hurt

Vaccines: It Doesn't Have to Hurt, Powered by Nemours Children's Health System

Back-to-school is approaching fast. If you’re like many parents, that means back-to-school physicals and possibly vaccines or blood draws for your kids too. For some families, this topic makes kids and parents alike cringe. We know the critical importance of vaccinations, but it doesn’t make it easier on a child who is frightened of needles, or on parents as they watch their kids squirm, scream, and cry in anticipation of the shot or needle.

Thankfully, research doesn’t stop at the safety and efficacy of vaccines. Dr. Christine Chambers and Anna Taddio are well-known pediatric psychologists who study pain and have worked to get the message out publicly that pain management in kids is important and accessible, especially in the case of vaccine! The campaign, “It Doesn’t Have to Hurt” is an excellent resource for parents. Currently, fewer than 5% of kids receive any pain management during vaccines. It’s reassuring to know that for kids who need it, help is available.

How You Can Help

For Babies:

  • It’s never too early – from your child’s first prick or poke, pain management helps set the stage for less fear later on. (Did you know that boys who have circumcisions without pain management have more pain at subsequent vaccines?)
  • Breastfeeding before, during, and after vaccines serves as a natural pain aid.
  • Sweet tasting solutions (sugar water) during vaccines help infants who aren’t breastfeeding or aren’t with breastfeeding mom at time of the shot.
  • Hold baby upright, close to parent.
  • Be an advocate for your child – tell your doctor or nurse about this research and why you’re nursing during the vaccines.

For Kids:

  • Don’t use vaccines as a threat or punishment.
  • If your kids are old enough to understand, tell them that vaccines are medicine to keep them healthy.
  • Be honest:  Don’t say “it won’t hurt” or “don’t worry.”
  • Let kids sit upright, a supine or laying position may make it worse.
  • Ask about topical anesthetics or pain blocker such as Buzzy the Bee
  • Rub the area of skin before the vaccine is given.
  • Slow, deep breathing helps reduce pain; try using a pinwheel or bubbles for younger kids to help guide the breathing.
  • Distraction works, too. Use an iPad, TV show, game, phone app, to help kids get their minds on something other than the procedure.

Shots can be a pain, but they don’t have to be! Try some of these tips at your child’s next physical or vaccine appointment.

Learn More

It Doesn’t Have to Hurt You Tube Video
It Doesn’t Have to Hurt Campaign
Give Vaccines a Well Deserved Shot

Meghan Tuohy Walls, PsyD

Meghan Tuohy Walls, PsyD, is a psychologist at Nemours Children's Hospital and Nemours Pediatrics, Jessup St. in Wilmington, Del.