Pain-free Injections in Children over 1 year of age

For the page on Painfree Injections in Babies click here​. ​​​​​​​


Vaccinations will protect your child from harmful infectious diseases. Vaccines must be given with a needle, which causes pain; this experience can be stressful for both children and parents.

Below are some methods you can use to help reduce the pain and anxiety associated with having your child vaccinated.

Planning ahea​d

Talk to your doctor

Before your child’s vaccination appointment, discuss your plan for pain reduction with your doctor so they can support you in this plan. All of the information below is based on scientifically proven research done by experts at SickKids and across Canada.

Tal​k to your child

If your child is 4 years or older, help them to prepare for their vaccinations by discussing the procedure with them beforehand.

Topics ​you might want to cover:

  • What is going to happen – “the doctor is going to use a needle to give you a vaccine in your arm”
  • Why they need to get a vaccine – “the vaccine will protect you from getting sick”
  • How it will feel – “it might feel like a little pinch”
  • What will be done to manage their pain – “we are going to play a game, so that you do not notice it very much”

Before th​e vaccination

Use of topical an​esthetics

Topical anesthetic creams or gels may be applied to the area where your child will receive their vaccine, in order to reduce pain. In Canada, these products are available over the counter; they must be applied between 30 to 60 minutes prior to injection. It is important to discuss this option with your doctor, and to ensure that the anesthetic gel or cream does not contain any ingredients that your child is allergic to.

Distract your c​hild

Take with you any items that you can use to distract your child during their vaccination. These items might include favourite toys, mobile devices or bubbles. You can also sing, talk or tell jokes to distract them from any pain they might be experiencing.

Girl getting a vaccine Girl getting a vaccine
During th​​e vaccination

Hold your ch​ild

Holding your child comfortably in your lap will help to calm them during their immunizations, and will also encourage them to stay still.

Rub your child’​s skin

Rub your child’s arm before, during, and after the vaccination. The sensation of touch from your hand, rubbing an area of the arm away from the injection site, will compete with the pain experienced from the needle. This will help to lessen your child’s perception of pain.

Stay Ca​lm

If you are feeling anxious before and during your child’s vaccination, your child is likely to pick up on these emotions. Even though you may feel stress related to vaccination, try your best to remain calm. Use your normal speaking voice, and take slow, deep breaths.

For more detailed information on the suggestions given above, please download this handout.

Painfree Injections in Children over 1 year EN.pdfPainfree Injections in Children over 1 year EN.pdf

Anna Taddio, BScPhm, MSc, PhD​