Vaccinations
NHS Choices

Top 10 questions about childhood vaccinations

Find the answers to your burning questions about your baby's vaccinations, including whether they're safe, painful and what to do if you miss one of the injections.

Does a baby need to be vaccinated before going swimming?

You can take your baby swimming at any time before and after their immunisations.

How will I know when my baby’s vaccinations are due?

Your doctor’s surgery or clinic will automatically send you an appointment for you to bring your baby for their vaccination. Most surgeries and health centres run special immunisation or baby clinics. If you can’t get to the clinic, contact your surgery to make another appointment. All childhood vaccinations are free.

Can I refuse my baby’s vaccinations?

As a parent, you can decide whether or not to have your child immunised. You should be asked for your consent before each vaccination and, if you refuse, this should be recorded in your child’s medical notes.

Bear in mind that there's lots of evidence that vaccinations do much more good than harm and that vaccines will protect your child for many years against a range of serious illnesses.

Read more about weighing up the risks and benefits of vaccination.

What if I miss a vaccination appointment?

If you missed the appointment or delayed the immunisation, make a new appointment. You can pick up the immunisation schedule where it stopped without having to start again.

Read more about vaccination appointments.

Will my baby have side effects from the injection?

Some babies will have side effects. These include:

  • redness, swelling or tenderness where they had the injection (this will slowly disappear on its own)
  • a bit of irritability and feeling unwell
  •  a high temperature (fever)

If your baby develops a fever, you can treat them with paracetamol or ibuprofen. Never, though, give painkillers before the vaccination.

Read more about what to do about side effects of vaccinations.

Will my baby feel much pain from the vaccination?

Your baby may cry and be upset for a few minutes, but they’ll usually settle down after a cuddle.

Read six practical vaccination tips for parents.

I think my baby has an allergy – should they still have their vaccinations?

Yes, they should. Asthma, eczema, food intolerances and allergies do NOT prevent your child having any of their vaccinations. If you have any questions, speak to your doctor, practice nurse or health visitor.

Read the myths and truths about vaccinations.

But some babies do have an allergic reaction to a vaccination don’t they?

It’s very rare for babies and children to have an allergic reaction to a vaccination – though it can happen. The important thing to remember is that it’s completely treatable.

Signs of an allergic reaction to a vaccination are a rash or itching of part or all of the body. If this happens, the doctor or nurse giving the vaccine will know how to treat it.

In very rare cases, children can have a severe reaction within a few minutes of the injection, which causes breathing difficulties and, sometimes, collapse. This is called an anaphylactic reaction. It only happens about once in every million immunisations and, again, the people who give vaccinations are trained to deal with anaphylactic reactions on the spot and children recover completely with treatment.

Read more about the safety of vaccinations.

What if my baby is ill on the day of the appointment?

If your baby has a minor illness without a fever, such as a cold, they should have their vaccinations as normal. If your baby is ill with a fever, put off the vaccination until they have recovered. This is to avoid the fever being associated with the vaccine, or the vaccine increasing the fever your child already has.

If your baby:

  • has a bleeding disorder (for example haemophilia), or
  • has had a fit not associated with fever

speak to your doctor, practice nurse or health visitor before your child has any immunisations.

Read more about why and when your baby should avoid having a vaccination.

My baby was premature – should we wait until they've grown more before having the vaccinations?

Premature babies may be at higher risk of catching infections so it’s really important that they have their vaccinations on time, ie from two months of age, no matter how premature they were.

It may seem very early to give a vaccination to such a tiny baby, but many scientific studies have shown that it’s a good time to give them vaccines. Postponing vaccination until they're older leaves premature babies vulnerable to diseases.

Read more about when to vaccinate your baby.


Last Updated: 01/04/2017 09:00:00