We know that immunisations are the safest and most effective way to protect our children against life-threatening disease, but nevertheless the thought of exposing our tiny bundles of perfection to injections, needles and vaccinations isn’t a pleasant one.  So what can you expect on the day of your baby’s first immunisations?

How will I know when to take my baby?

When you register your baby’s birth you will receive a short birth certificate and a registration card that you will need to complete and take to your GP to register your baby with a doctor. Once you have done this you will receive automatic reminder cards from your GP surgery whenever your baby is due an immunisation.

Your Health Visitor will also give you your baby’s Personal Child Health Record, commonly called the red book. The immunisation part of the book explains when your baby will receive his vaccinations, starting at two months old. This is the same for all infants, even premature babies.

What happens at the clinic?

Before your baby’s first immunisations, your GP or Practice Nurse will give him a brief check-up. On subsequent immunisations, she will ask you if he’s well. You should tell her if;

  • Your baby has a temperature/fever.
  • Has had a bad reaction to a previous immunisation.
  • Has any problems with bleeding.
  • Has ever had a fit or convulsion.
  • If any member of your family is taking medicines which affect the immune system, such as for cancer or following an organ transplant.
  • If any member of your family has an illness such as HIV or Aids that affects the immune system.

Who will give the immunisations?

Immunisations are usually given by the Practice Nurse, Health Visitor or GP. Routine childhood immunisations are free. She will ask you to hold your baby securely on your knee, keeping his arm or leg still. If you don’t want to hold your baby while he has his injection then tell your nurse and ask your partner or another relative to do so instead.

How are they given?

The injections are given with a small needle into the upper arm, thigh or buttock. Some injections are more than one vaccine in a single shot, such as the five-in-one, and others such as the Men C contain just the one vaccine. Most babies cry for a few minutes and then settle. Sucking during any painful procedure reduces the amount of discomfort a baby feels. Some mothers like to nurse their baby while he has the injection as this has been found to be the best way to reduce the pain.

What should I look out for after the injection?

You will be asked to remain in the clinic for ten minutes after your baby has his immunisations. This is in case he has any immediate reaction to the vaccinations. Approximately one in half a million children suffer an extreme reaction to a vaccination known as anaphylaxis. This happens within a few minutes and may cause difficulties breathing. It is quickly and easily treated by whoever gives your baby his immunisation.

Your baby might be irritable after his vaccinations, and often there will be redness and swelling around the site of the injection. Pain and mild fever can be treated with an over the counter remedy, such as paediatric paracetamol or ibuprofen, although children should never be given aspirin.

If your baby develops a very high temperature over 38ºC, or has a fit, consult your doctor at once. If you think your baby is having any kind of severe reaction to his immunisations, trust your instincts and seek medical advice.