Which symptoms are normal after getting a vaccine?

Your little one has just had his latest vaccines. He seems irritable, is crying and is struggling to sleep. Is this normal?

Vaccines aim to protect your child from serious illnesses like measles, whooping cough and polio. The drugs in vaccines are made from parts of the diseases it protects your child from. They don’t cause the disease, but ‘’tells” your child’s body to make antibodies (blood proteins) which fight diseases.

For example, after a vaccine for measles, if your child’s body comes into contact with measles, their body would fight the disease as they can recognise it.

Unfortunately, like with other medication, vaccines come with side-effects. These side-effects are usually harmless and will clear up. Severe reactions to vaccines are rare because the process to get a vaccine approved is rigorous and involves many safety tests.

To protect your child, it’s important to know which reactions are normal and what’s not. Here are some normal and uncommon reactions to vaccines to get you clued up.

Normal vaccine reactions

A mild reaction after a vaccine means the medicine is working. It’s also a sign that your little one’s body is creating new antibodies to fight infection. Usually, these symptoms go away on their own within a few days.

  • A slight fever.
  • Tenderness and redness where the injection was given.
  • Fussiness.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • A small, hard lump where the injection was given. This may be there for a few weeks but shouldn’t raise concern.

Vomiting, loss of appetite or drowsiness are also normal reactions, but are less common.

How to manage common side effects

If your child is experiencing any side effects, you can ease his discomfort.

  • Dress him in cool, loose clothes.
  • Give him fluids to drink.
  • Put a cold, wet cloth on the injection site to ease pain or swelling.
  • Ask your doctor and pharmacist for over-the-counter medication for pain and fever. Check the label for dosage instructions or ask your doctor if it isn’t clear.
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When is it serious?

In some cases, reactions after a vaccine can be serious. This usually happens if your child has an allergic reaction. Severe reactions are rare, but it’s important to know what they are so you can help your child.

Look out for serious symptoms:

  • Swelling in the throat or face
  • A pounding heartbeat
  • Pale complexion
  • Weakness
  • Hoarseness
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing problems (e.g. wheezing)
  • Seizures
  • Uncontrollable crying for three hours or more

If your child experiences any worrying symptoms, take him to your doctor immediately. If you have any questions before your child gets any vaccination, ask them. Your doctor will be able to put your mind at ease.

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