Vaccines – What to Look For and How to Prepare

Very shortly after taking a new baby home from the hospital, the new little bundle of joy must be wrapped up and taken out into the world to meet with his or her doctor for shots. Before being stuck for the first time, the doctor will provide the new parents with information sheets about the vaccines that will scare mom and dad to death. Though these sheets are a little extreme, they offer content about the vaccine itself, why it is important to have the vaccine, and potential side effects to look for in the infant throughout the remainder of the day. It is not rare for new parents to be overly cautious, but preparation is important regardless if this is baby number one or a 10-year-old. 

Like with any sort of medication, there can be risks or side effects involved with vaccines, but check out the facts to help put this risk into perspective. First of all, the risk of complications associated with vaccine-preventable diseases that could lead to hospitalization or even death is much greater than the risk of having a reaction to the vaccine in the first place. This essentially means you are at more of a risk not having the vaccine and getting a disease than just getting the vaccine in the first place. Secondly, vaccines go through a plethora of tests before being approved by the FDA to be administered to people like you and like me. They are tested and continuously monitored for safety, and they are tested to be given in conjunction with other vaccines. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that, in most cases, vaccine side effects are minor and go away within a few days. These side effects vary based on the vaccine administered, but some of the minor things to look for include fatigue, headache, itching at the injection site, nausea, mild rash, or pain, redness, tenderness or swelling at the injection site. This category of reaction is considered rare and will likely go away in a few days; however, it is important to keep a record of this and let your doctor or pediatrician know before the next round of vaccines. 

Some of the more severe reactions to vaccines include high fever, weakness, or behavior changes, and severe allergic reactions could include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, fast heartbeat, or dizziness. If you notice any of these sorts of symptoms, it is important to notify the doctor right away, and parents are encouraged to report the case to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), which tracks vaccine side effects and reports findings to the public. That can be done by visiting the VAERS website here

Prior to the first round of shots, there is no way to know how susceptible a baby will be to a reaction from their first immunizations. Years ago, pretreatment with baby Tylenol or ibuprofen might have been recommended prior to vaccination, but the trend now is that pretreatment is not recommended. Consult your doctor prior to immunizations about pretreatment before going this route. If a baby does have an allergic reaction after their first round of shots, make a note of this in personal records and let the doctor know. The next round of shots will be treated a little differently with the knowledge that something could happen. 

The benefits of vaccinations far outweigh the cost of pain associated with them or the very rare risk of having a reaction of any kind. Make sure you take the time to educate yourself prior to immunization day and be prepared to look for any reactions and know how to handle them should they occur.