Pain Management During Immunizations for Kids and Adolescents

Immunizations are a routine part of medical care from childhood to adulthood. The pain caused by vaccinations can be upsetting, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety for some kids and teens, who may then delay or avoid vaccinations, leaving them without protection from serious disease.

Below are some tips you can use to help reduce the stress, anxiety and pain when it comes to immunizations.

What you can do:

Upright positioning

  • Have your child sit upright before, during and after the vaccination.
  • Your child may be held on your lap. This helps your child to feel secure and to stay still. Don’t hold your child too tightly. If you do, this can increase your child’s distress.
  • Make sure to undress your child to free the arm(s) where the vaccination will be given.



What you can give: 

Topical anaesthetic

  • In Canada, you can buy topical anaesthetics to reduce the pain from vaccination without a prescription: EMLATM (lidocaine-prilocaine), AmetopTM (tetracaine), or MaxileneTM (lidocaine).
  • They are safe for children.
  • Apply them at home or at the clinic before vaccination.



How you can act:

Your state of mind

  • Stay with your child, be calm, and use your normal speaking voice during and after the needle.
  • Acknowledge your child’s pain but don’t focus on it. This will help your child stay calm.
  • Children see and feel what their parents are doing and often do the same. If you are nervous, you can take a few slow deep breaths to calm yourself. Breathe so your belly expands, not your chest.
  • Direct your child to take slow deep breaths before, during and after the needle.



Distract your child

  • Taking your child’s focus away from the pain can reduce your child’s pain.
  • Distract with singing, talking, counting, jokes, books, bubbles, pinwheels, toys, or electronic devices like  smartphones and tablets before, during and after the needle.
  • For best results, choose a distraction that involves multiple senses (sight, touch and hearing) and have your child actively participate. Keep your child’s attention on the distraction.
  • Be prepared to change what you are doing to keep your child distracted.
  • There are a few children who cope better if they watch the vaccination, so if your child says he or she wants to watch, that’s okay too.



Additional Resources

HELPinKids&Adults | Sick Kids | Immunize Canada. Reduce the Pain of Vaccination in Kids and Teens.

Last Updated: 18 August 2022