Vaccination and your child

Vaccination is the best way to protect your child against many dangerous diseases. In Canada, vaccines prevent illnesses such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), polio, Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib), rotavirus, hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox, pneumococcal and meningococcal diseases, and human papillomavirus virus (HPV).

  • 5-in-1 or 6-in-1 vaccine (also known as DPTP-Hib), DPT-polio, or Hib vaccine protects against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, and Hib disease.
  • Rotavirus vaccine protects infants against rotavirus, the most common cause of serious diarrhea in babies and young children.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine protects against infections caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae, including meningitis (a brain infection), pneumonia, and ear infections.
  • Meningococcal vaccine protects against diseases caused by the meningococcus bacteria, including meningitis and septicemia, a serious blood infection.
  • MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella.
  • Varicella vaccine protects against chickenpox, a very uncomfortable and sometimes serious infection.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine protects against hepatitis B, a serious infection of the liver.
  • dTap vaccine protects adolescents against diptheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough).
  • HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, some other cancers, and genital warts.
  • If your child has a chronic health condition, other vaccines may be recommended. Speak to your physician.
  • You should also speak to a physician about vaccines that can protect your child while travelling.

Vaccines are very safe. There are rarely reasons not to get vaccinated.

What if my child is sick when the vaccine is due?

If your child is very sick when it’s time for a vaccine, talk to your doctor or health care provider.

The diseases prevented by infant and childhood vaccines are serious and even deadly. Measles can spread to the brain, cause brain damage and death. Mumps can cause permanent deafness. Polio can cause paralysis. Sadly, these diseases have not disappeared. There is no treatment and no cure for diseases like measles, polio and tetanus. The only way to protect your child is through vaccination.

A Guide for Parents :Reduce the Pain of Vaccination in Children Under 3 Years

Why is vaccination pain a concern?

  • Most vaccines are given with a needle. This can be painful and frightening for children.
  • Pain can cause a child to develop a fear of doctors, nurses and needles.
  • No parent wants to see a child in pain. Some parents delay or stop vaccinations because of pain. This can leave a child without protection from serious diseases.
  • Read this guide to learn about 3 ways you can reduce your child’s pain during vaccinations. These methods are proven to be safe and effective. You can combine the different methods for better results.
  • Plan what you will do for your child’s next vaccination.
  • Some strategies require preparation ahead of your child’s visit: 1) Sugar water can be prepared at home or at the clinic by mixing 1 teaspoon of sugar with 2 teaspoons of water. 2) Topical anaesthetics can be applied at home or at the clinic to numb the skin – these can be purchased at a pharmacy without a prescription. 3) Toys for distracting your child can be packed and brought to your child’s visit.

Keeping your child’s vaccination record up to date

Ask the doctor or nurse to give you a written record (usually by writing it in your child’s vaccine booklet) and take this record with you whenever you take your child to a doctor, a clinic or hospital. An up-to-date vaccine record is especially important if you move to a new province or territory, as vaccine schedules are not the same everywhere. Your child may miss vaccine doses if your new doctor or clinic does not know exactly which vaccines he has already received.

How can I minimize the pain?

Needles can hurt. To lessen the pain you can:
• Apply a topical anesthetic (a cream that causes temporary numbness) an hour before getting the needle. You may have to confirm with your doctor what part of your child’s body the shot will be given (for example, the arm or the leg). Your pharmacist can help you find the cream.
• Nurse your baby while he gets the needle, or give your baby sugar water (with a teaspoon or pacifier) just before the shot.
• Use distractions (blow bubbles, read a book), suggest deep breathing, remain calm and physically comfort your child (cuddle, hold hands) during the needle.
• If your child is crying or fussy after getting the shot, you can give her acetaminophen (such as Tylenol or Tempra).

What you can do


  • If you are breastfeeding, start to breastfeed your baby before the needle. Make sure you have a good latch. Then continue breastfeeding during and after the needle.
  • Breastfeeding combines holding, sweet taste, and sucking and is one of the best ways to reduce pain in babies. • Breastfeeding during needles is safe for babies, even newborns. There is no evidence that babies will choke or associate their mothers with pain.
  • Undress your baby to free the leg(s) or arm(s) where the needle will be given before you start breastfeeding.
  • If your child cannot be breastfed, you may bottle feed your child or give a soother before, during and after vaccination.


  • Hold your child on your lap or hug your child during the needle. This will help your child stay still and feel secure.
  • Sit on a chair to minimize the risk of accidental falls.
  • Make sure to undress your child to free the leg(s) or arm(s) where the needle will be given
  • Don’t hold your child too tightly. This can increase pain and distress.
  • You may rock your child back and forth after the needle
What you can give


  • You can use sugar water to reduce your child’s pain.
  • Sugar water is safe for children, even newborns.
  • Make sugar water at home or at the clinic by mixing 1 teaspoon of white sugar with 2 teaspoons of distilled or boiled water. For babies over 6 months, you may use tap water if the tap water is safe for drinking.
  • Give your child some sugar water 1 to 2 minutes before vaccination, using a dropper (or syringe). Place it into the side of your child’s mouth between the cheeks and gums. • If your child uses a soother, the soother can be dipped into the sugar water and given to your child during the needle. Combining sugar water with a soother and holding your child can simulate aspects of breastfeeding.
  • If your child is getting a vaccine called rotavirus, then you do not need to give sugar waterbecause the rotavirus vaccine has sugar in it



  • EMLA™ (lidocaine-prilocaine), Ametop™ (tetracaine), or Maxilene™ (lidocaine). • They dull pain where the needle enters your child’s skin.
  • They are safe for babies, even newborns.
  • Apply them at home or at the clinic before the needle.
  • For babies under 1 year of age, apply to the upper outer part of the leg; for children aged over 1 year, apply to the upper arm. Confirm the location with your child’s health care provider. If your child is getting more than one needle, apply to both legs or both arms.
  • You have to wait for topical anaesthetics to take effect. Apply to injection site between 30 and 60 minutes before the needle, according to manufacturer instructions.
  • Remove the medicine after the waiting time. Your child’s skin may appear whiter or redder than normal. This is OK and will go away.
  • Allergic skin reactions are rare. If there is a rash, talk to your child’s health care provider about it. It could be an allergic skin reaction. If your child experiences an allergic skin reaction, use another product the next time.
How you can act


  • Try to stay calm, use your normal speaking voice, and be positive before, during, and after the needle. This will help your child stay calm. Children see and feel what their parents are doing, and often do the same.
  • Avoid using reassuring statements like “It’ll be over soon” and “You’re OK”. Reassurance can increase distress and pain.
  • If you are nervous, you can take a few slow, deep breaths to calm yourself. Breathe so your belly expands, not your chest. You can do this while holding your baby.



  • Taking your child’s focus away from the pain can reduce your child’s pain.
  • While holding your baby close, distract with videos (for example, mobile devices), toys and music.
  • Start distracting your child before the needle but distract only when your child is calm enough to do so; otherwise, distress may be increased.
  • The way you distract your child once may not work the next time. Be prepared to change what you are doing to keep your child distracted
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