Most parents loathe the discomfort that their infants undergo after they get their shots. However, it is important to remember that the advantages of immunization far outweigh its side effects. Infants are born with certain antibodies that fight infection. There are others that they receive from the mother’s milk as they are breastfed. However, the protection from these antibodies are temporary. Hence, even if infant fever bothers you or your child, be assured that vaccines are important to build your child’s immunity against a host of diseases, in future.
Vaccines are killed or weakened strains of disease-causing organisms that are introduced into the body. The body recognizes these organisms as foreign bodies. The immune system destroys these organisms and ‘remembers’ them so that the next time the individual is attacked by the organisms naturally, the body fights them back. Rise in temperature of the body is a sign that the body is fighting off the strain of organisms introduced through vaccines. Bacteria and viruses thrive inside the body at temperatures around 98.6°F. High temperature during fever helps to kill these germs. Also the elevated temperatures help the body in producing more white blood cells, antibodies, and other infection-fighting agents. Hence, infant fever after vaccination is just as much desired as is natural.
- Redness or swelling in the skin where the vaccine has been injected.
- Soreness or tenderness of the area where the shot was given.
- Mild to moderate fever.
- Irritability and fussiness in the infant.
- Loss of appetite, the baby refuses to drink milk. The baby shows unwillingness towards food.
- The child may not show any interest in playing.
- As the body temperature starts to drop, excessive sweating can be noticed. The child may look well then and may start smiling.
- After getting a nasal spray vaccine, the child may have a runny nose. The child may suffer from congestion or may develop cough.
Infant fever after shots should not set panic in parents. The common reactions that are mentioned above subside in just a couple of days. Actually, it is a sign that the body’s immune system is fighting against the organisms introduced into the body and is preparing the body for future infections. Although these reactions are mild, in very rare cases some infants may develop severe reactions to certain vaccines. Such reactions may manifest in the form of breathing problems, wheezing, hives, skin rashes, weakness, lethargy, seizures, fainting, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, increased irritability and irregular heartbeat. In case an infant does develop such reactions, a doctor must be immediately called. These reactions are triggered within a few minutes or hours of the shot.
Vaccines are an integral aspect of proper baby care. It is a fact that immunization causes discomfort, but you can’t avoid it. However, there are ways in which parents can reduce the anxiety and pain of their children. Besides the physical pain, shots tend to unsettle children. Give them emotional support by staying close to them. After the doctor is done with giving the shot, take the baby into your arms and press him close against your chest using your arms. This will soothe the baby and give him a sense of security.
Parents need to be careful while handling their infants, especially the area where the injection is given. Avoid contact with that area. In case there is swelling or redness in the spot, dip a clean cloth in ice water and apply it to that area. Not only would this reduce the baby’s pain, but it would also calm the child. Give a few spoons of sugar solution (add a couple of teaspoons of table sugar to 3-4 ounces of water, boil it and let it cool down. Use it when at room temperature) to the baby after immunization as researchers have found that sugar solution has a calming effect on infants.
In case of infant fever after immunization, which is a very common phenomenon, monitor your child’s temperature on a regular basis. Mild to moderate temperature is acceptable. Infants should be given plenty of liquids when they run a temperature. Avoid overdressing kids at such times. A cool cloth can be used to comfort the baby. Also consult your doctor if you are considering giving medicines to your child. To deal with the fussiness of a child who has just received his shots, Tylenol can be given. However, again I strongly advise that parents consult their doctor before administering any medicine to their infant.
Sleep (sufficient rest) plays a significant role in the functioning of the immune system. Studies show that insufficient sleep before or after getting a shot usually leads to a weaker immune response to the vaccine. According to the latest study reports, chances of infants sleeping longer were high when they were vaccinated after 1:30 p.m. And the infants who slept longer after receiving their shots, showed only a slight rise in body temperature over the next 24 hours. More studies are required to confirm the relationship between timing of immunization and immune response; but till then, there is no harm in trying ‘afternoon immunization’ for an infant.
Infant fever after shots is a natural reaction of vaccination. Parents shouldn’t be overly anxious about it. Just try to make the child as comfortable as you can and consult the doctor so that you are sure that you know what is the best for the baby.