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What are the Normal Side Effects of Vaccines?

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Jan 2, 2018

Vaccines are an important part of preventive health care. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) maintains a helpful list of vaccines that are recommended for people at all stages of life, from birth to advanced age.

After receiving a vaccine, you or your child may experience mild side effects. Let’s take a closer look at which side effects are normal, and which should make you call your doctor.


Fussy and Grumpy

In children, it’s called fussiness. In adults, it’s called grumpiness. It’s the overall feeling of hard-to-define unwellness that can be a mixture of physical and emotional factors.

It’s normal to feel fussy or grumpy after getting a vaccine. Receiving an injection can be stressful. Some people have a fear of needles that makes it even more unpleasant.

If your child’s fussiness seems extreme, and is accompanied by other symptoms like a sudden high fever or vomiting, contact your doctor for advice.

Pain, Redness, and Swelling

Another normal side effect of vaccinations is feeling a dull pain at the site of the injection. This is simply the result of the needle perforating the skin and the body receiving the vaccination.

The CDC reports that many people feel hand, arm, shoulder, and neck pain in the hours after vaccinations. This is considered a normal side effect. Contact a doctor if the pain persists for more than a couple of days, gets worse, or is accompanied by other symptoms like vision and hearing changes.

A small amount of redness and swelling is also normal. Children sometimes complain of lymph node pain or mild joint pain. If any of this persists more than 48 hours, contact a doctor.

Mild Fever

A mild fever is common after receiving a vaccine. It’s part of your body’s response to sensing the vaccine in your body. Even though the vaccine is beneficial, your body sets off a fever in the effort to figure out what’s going on.

In a child less than 3 months old, a post-vaccine fever over 100.4F is cause for concern. A sudden high fever in anyone, regardless of age, is always worth a call to the doctor too.

Needing a Nap

It’s normal to feel slightly drowsy or sleepy in the hours after a vaccination, especially if it was a stressful event for you or your child. It might help to take a bit of time to rest and recover. Passing out, fainting, and being unable to stay awake are far less common symptoms of vaccines.

What’s Not Normal

Some side effects are rare. Something else could be going on. Contact your doctor if you or your child experiences these symptoms:

  • Rash
  • Swelling that spreads beyond the injection site
  • Swelling in the face, eyes, or tongue
  • Sudden high fever
  • Vision and hearing changes
  • Allergic reaction symptoms like: hives, itching, nasal congestion, eye irritation
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Loss of consciousness

The experts at Johnson Memorial Pediactric Specialistsare always glad to help with questions about vaccines. 

Topics: Pediatrics