Common Vaccine Reactions

One of the most common questions we’re asked at Well Visits is, “What should I expect after a vaccine?”

There are some common side effects of virtually all immunizations, which is a good thing — it’s one way of showing us the body is working hard to make the antibodies to fight the disease!

Typically, patients may experience soreness, redness, and/or swelling around the area where the shot was given. This local reaction generally begins within 24 hours, and end within 2-3 days. A local reaction from the DTaP  vaccine (also known as the “tetanus shot”) may last slightly longer.

Other minor side effects like fever, headache, and fussiness may occur shortly after an immunization and usually resolve within 1-2 days. Increased or decreased sleep, as well as decreased appetite, may also occur. These side effects are rare, generally harmless, and can be treated with supportive care.

Treating Discomfort

Children older than 2 months of age can have Tylenol every 4-6 hours as needed for fever/tenderness. Kids older than 6 months can be given Motrin every 6-8 hours as needed. For more informati0n, see Dr. Maddalena’s excellent Note on Fever, and our Note on Pain Fever & Pain Relief Dosing, which includes links to dosing tables for both medicines.

We do NOT recommend giving any pain reliever/fever reducer prior to giving the shots, because research suggests this might actually get in the way of the body responding to the vaccine the way it should.

For swelling and localized tenderness, wrapped cold packs or cool compresses can be placed over the site of the immunization for up to 20 minutes at a time as needed.

For children who develop fever or decreased appetite, we recommend increase their fluid intake.

While no one likes to see a child in discomfort,  the mild, not-long-lasting side effects of vaccines are well worth the protection from disease the vaccines offer.

As always, if you have any questions about your child’s response to an immunization, give us a call in the office.

Samantha Gronlund, PA, has been a Kids Plus Provider since 2016.

Kristopher Durrett spent a rotation at Kids Plus as a PA Student from Slippery Rock University.