Vaccination tips for parents
Make the vaccination appointment
You'll automatically get an appointment letter when your baby or child is due for a routine vaccination. It could be at your GP practice or a local child health clinic.
Let the clinic know as soon as possible if you can't attend the appointment, so they can rearrange the vaccination for as close to the recommended age as possible.
Download this personalised vaccination calendar, which highlights the dates your child needs to have their vaccinations by.
Take the red book with you
Remember to take your Personal Child Health Record (PCHR) to the appointment, so details of the vaccination can be recorded in it. In England, this usually has a red cover and is often called the "red book".
Wear vaccination-friendly clothes
Dressing your baby or child in the right clothes can save time and effort at the vaccination clinic.
Avoid chunky, padded or tight-fitting clothes with lots of buttons and straps. They take time to remove and put back on.
Babies under 12 months have injections in the thigh. Toddlers and older children have them in the arm. Thin cotton layers fastened with poppers are perfect for babies, and loose or short sleeves for toddlers and older children.
Get to the vaccination appointment on time
Give yourself enough time to get to your appointment. If you rush, you may get stressed. Your child will sense that and become anxious.
Ideally, allow yourself an hour. Clinics can run behind schedule and you need time to ask the doctor or nurse questions.
Stay calm during the vaccination
It's natural to worry that your child's vaccination will hurt. In fact, having a vaccination is often painless.
Try to stay calm and treat the procedure in a matter-of-fact way. If you're anxious, your child may sense this and also become anxious and restless.
Older children generally find it less traumatic if parents explain to them that vaccination is a good thing. Use plain language to prepare your child for what's going to happen.
Hold your child during the vaccination
Usually, the doctor or nurse will ask you to hold your child on your knee while they vaccinate them.
If the injection is quick, your child won't even see the needle or notice that anything has happened.
If you're nervous about seeing your child having an injection, ask a nurse or another member of staff to hold them for you.
Children rarely faint after a vaccination, but if your child is prone to fainting, ask if they can have the vaccination lying down.
After the vaccination
Make sure that the type of injection (and where it was given) is noted down in your red book and in your child's GP records. Your child may need this information later in life – for example, for school trips, when applying for certain jobs, or going to live or study abroad.
Give a painkiller for fever
Vaccinations shouldn't hurt, although the area where the needle goes in can be sore and red afterwards.
Your child may develop a mild fever after the vaccination. If this happens, you can give them infant paracetamol or ibuprofen to bring their temperature down.
With Men B vaccination (given at 8 weeks, 16 weeks and 1 year) it's recommended that you routinely give your baby liquid paracetamol after the vaccination to reduce the risk of fever.
Allergic reactions to vaccinations
A serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to a vaccination is very rare. If this does happen, it's quick and usually happens within minutes. The people who give vaccinations are trained to deal with anaphylactic reactions and, with treatment, children recover completely.
Before the injection, tell the nurse about any bad reactions your child has had after any previous vaccinations.
Give permission for relatives to take children for vaccinations
If a relative, friend or childminder is taking your child for vaccinations, they will need permission to do so from the person with parental responsibility.
To do this, you could inform the surgery in advance or you could give them a letter with your contact details on so the surgery can call you if they need to speak to you.
What to do if you miss a vaccination
Don't panic. You don't have to start the course of vaccines again, just make a new appointment as soon as you can.