Before going to the clinic
Given the vaccine schedule’s complexity, it can be challenging to understand which vaccines your children need and when. Here are some tips on how to stay on top of planning your child’s immunisation.
Follow the schedule
For your child to be fully immunised and protected, it’s important to get the timing right when planning vaccinations. Different vaccines are given at varying intervals in order to safely give your child’s body the reminders it needs to build appropriate immunity.
When planning vaccinations, mark down all immunisation dates as soon as possible. It can be easy to forget immunisation dates when you have to deal with work, household chores and so on. Try marking the appointments on your calendar, smartphone or computer. Some private clinics can also provide reminders. Remember to refer to the National Immunisation Programme (NIP) if you are unsure.
Children with fever
If your child has an on-going fever, it is likely that his or her immune system is not in the best condition. In this case, your doctor might advise you to postpone the vaccination until your child recovers. If your child has a cold, but no fever, it is still possible for your child to be vaccinated.
Consult the doctor if you miss a date
If your child misses a dose, inform your doctor immediately. He or she will advise you on what to do next. Generally, your doctor will continue with the subsequent vaccine doses.
Consider combination vaccines – less pain more gain!
In fact, your doctor might talk to you about combination vaccines to save on time and visits. Combination vaccines are multiple vaccines combined together into a single vaccine so that your children get protection from multiple diseases in fewer shots. This makes immunisation less painful and more convenient.
Dress your child right for the vaccination
If your child is getting a vaccination on the thigh, wear easy-to-take-off pants, or if your child is getting vaccinated on the upper arm, wear a sleeveless or short sleeved shirt.
Avoid chunky, padded or tight-fitting clothes with lots of buttons and straps. They take time to remove and put back on.
Choose clothes that you can remove or roll up easily.
Preparing your toddler before the visit
If your child is more than 2 years old, it could help to inform them about the immunisation before their appointment.
You should try to maintain a soft, nurturing-tone throughout. Answers questions honestly, and use words that lessen anxiety – for example, “you may feel pressure, squeezing, or poking”. Do not use words such as “pain, hurt, or sting”. You can say, “You need the vaccine to stay healthy. The medicine will be put in your arm with a needle. You will feel a quick prick.”
At the clinic
Caution Your Doctor
There are a few things you should highlight to your doctor and discuss before the vaccination.
- If your child has any severe allergies
At this stage, you can’t be expected to know about all your child’s allergies, but you should report the ones you know about.
Sometimes, children can be allergic to the ingredients within a vaccine. It usually isn’t a problem if the allergy is mild, however a severe allergy could be life threatening.
- If your child has had a severe reaction to a previous dose of any vaccine
Your child could have had some uncommon reactions to a previous vaccine. It is important to highlight these to your doctor. This could be reason enough to not give your child the said vaccine.
Children with Special Cases
If your child has a supressed immune system, he or she may not be able to receive certain live vaccines. A suppressed immune system can be cause by medical conditions (AIDS, leukaemia, or cancer) or medical treatments (steroids, chemotherapy or radiation).
Comfort Your Child During the Immunisation
At the clinic, these are some immunisation tips you can employ to make your child more comfortable during the appointment:
- Comforting restraint
Cuddle your baby or child firmly in your lap in a seated position.
Why? Being held close to you will help calm your child and help keep legs and arms still so that vaccines can be given safely. Sitting upright will help your child feel more secure. Ask your doctor how best to position your child.
Using toys that light-up or play music can distract your child before and during the immunisation. For older children, you can distract them by asking questions about something they are excited about. You may also employ the use of books, music players, or television shows to distract older children.
Why? Research shows that the part of the brain that processes pain is less active when children are distracted during immunisations.
If you are breastfeeding, you can breastfeed your baby before, during and after the immunisation.
Why? The physical closeness, the distraction of sucking and the sweet taste of breast milk will calm your baby. Research also shows that breast milk contains natural calming substances.
Trying these immunisation tips can turn clinic visits or immunisation appointments into a chance to teach children skills for managing potentially scary or difficult situations.
It is advisable to remain in the clinic for about half an hour after the immunisation. Sometimes your child may have a rare serious reaction to the vaccine (adverse reaction). However, when it does, it will happen within a few minutes to an hour of the vaccine injection. Therefore, being at the clinic means your child can be attended to without delay. If you are at home, call your doctor immediately.
Bringing your baby back from the clinic
After being vaccinated, a small proportion of children experience some changes, in other words side effects. Don’t worry, these side effects are usually mild and expected. These vaccine reactions mean that the body is building its immunity in response to the vaccines.
Here are some tips on what to expect and what to do.
Redness, swelling or tenderness at the injection site
This will slowly go away on its own, after a few days. However, if needed, you can use a cool, wet towel to soothe the redness and swelling.
If your baby gets a fever, you can cool him or her down by tepid sponging. Make sure you baby has lots of fluid to drink. If your child develops a fever or becomes irritable, you can treat them with pain-relieving medication such as paracetamol. However, these should never be given before immunisation or if the child has no fever.
These are vaccine reactions that are normally expected. However, some vaccine reactions aren’t detectable until the vaccine has been used on millions of people from various backgrounds. To better understand these adverse reactions, the government has set up an Adverse Effect Following Immunisation (AEFI) report system to record and study such reactions.