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  • Writer's pictureTy Bailey

My Child is Reacting to a Vaccine—What Do I Do?

Vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect children from many serious diseases. However, like any medication, they can also cause side effects. Here's what you need to know about common reactions to vaccines and what you should do if your child experiences a reaction.

It's important to note that the majority of vaccine reactions are minor and short-lived. Common reactions to vaccines include:

  • pain/tenderness

  • redness

  • soreness

  • fever

  • drowsiness

  • fussiness

These reactions are usually mild and go away on their own within a few days.

Some vaccines are also much more likely to have a child experience noticeable side effects, especially those like the DTaP and MMR vaccinations.

However, if your child experiences a more serious reaction, such as difficulty breathing, hives, or a severe allergic reaction, it's important to seek medical attention immediately.

If your child experiences a severe allergic reaction, call 911 or seek emergency medical care right away.

This type of reaction is very rare, but it's important to be prepared and know what to do if it occurs.

What Do I Do If My Child Reacts to a Vaccine?

Whenever your child receives a vaccine, your child's pediatrician will often provide you with a handout containing information about the vaccine they received as well as what to expect regarding side effects. Always be sure to read over the provided information, and ask your child's pediatrician any questions—no matter how big or small—that you have about the vaccinations before leaving the clinic.

If your child experiences redness, swelling, or fever, these are typically very normal and common reactions to receiving a vaccine. It's simply your child's immune system working to fight against the foreign substances that have just been introduced to help your kiddo build immunity against some very potentially dangerous conditions.

If at any point you become concerned about a side effect your child may be having after receiving a vaccine, call your child's pediatrician. If it's after hours, many doctor's offices have nurses and at least one doctor on call to answer any questions you may have that pertain to the vaccinations and any side effects. It's also wise to contact your child's doctor before giving any medication to manage fever or inflammation to ensure you're doing so safely and properly, especially for younger children.

If your child experiences ANY serious side effects or symptoms of an allergic reaction, SEEK EMERGENCY MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY. If your child develops any of the following, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room:

  • breathing difficulties

  • dizziness

  • hives

  • paleness

  • rapid heartbeat

  • swelling of the throat, mouth, tongue, or face

  • weakness

  • wheezing

Common Vaccinations and What to Expect

Many children that attend their yearly physicals have a vaccination schedule based on their doctor's recommendations as well as what it required for attendance in local daycares and schools. In most cases, these vaccination schedules tend to be the same regardless of location.

For a list of common pediatric vaccines and what to expect when your child receives one of them, please refer to The Pediatric Clinic's guide to childhood immunizations and their reactions.

Additionally, the CDC provides its own guide to common vaccines and potential reactions, which can be found here.

Additional Information

Regardless of severity, it's important to report any vaccine reactions to your child's healthcare provider and to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Doing so helps to monitor the overall safety of vaccines and identify any potential problems, which will help both you as well as other parents ensure the safety and well-being of your kids as they continue to take steps toward building good immunity.

It's also worth noting that vaccines are thoroughly tested for safety and efficacy before being approved for use. Serious reactions to vaccines are extremely rare and the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the potential risks. Some individuals may have certain beliefs or health conditions that prevent them from being able to receive vaccines which is why it's essential for the rest of us to do our part in keeping preventable diseases at bay.

For a more comprehensive list of common vaccines and those who the CDC recommends should not receive them due to potential health risks, click here.

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