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Have a positive experience: tips for adults

Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Mar 13, 2024
Immunizations can cause some pain. This pain can cause stress and anxiety for some adults. Below are some tips you can use to help reduce your pain, stress, and anxiety with immunizations — and make your experience more positive.
A cartoon person sitting upright.

Sit upright

Sit upright during the immunization. Sitting upright is associated with reduced pain during immunization. Tell your health care provider if you have a history of fainting or feel faint during or after the immunization. In this case, you should lie down. 

A cartoon man wearing a turban sitting in a chair with his arm relaxed.

Relax your arm

Relax your arm. It may help to dangle your arm beside you and then reposition it to ensure your arm and muscles are completely relaxed. It should feel loose and jiggly. Once your arm is relaxed, hold it still. If you’re tense, it could make the immunization more painful. 
A cartoon person with a grin in front of a blue background.

Stay calm

If you’re feeling anxious, take slow, deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and blow out through your mouth. This can help calm you and can also serve as a distraction. You can also bring someone with you to the appointment for support.

A cartoon person reading a book and listening to music in front of a green background.

Distract yourself

Taking your focus away from the needle can help reduce pain. Distract yourself before and during the immunization. You can talk to someone, read, listen to music, watch a video or play a game on your phone, or daydream about something exciting. It doesn’t matter what the distraction is — it just needs to be something that will actually distract you. 

A cartoon brown man sitting in a chair with a white patch on his arm.

Numb the skin

Numbing creams and patches decrease the pain when the needle is given. You can buy numbing creams or patches at your local pharmacy without a prescription. You will need to put the cream or patch on before the appointment because they take 30 - 60 minutes to work. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package. Read about how to use numbing creams and patches for immunizations.

A cartoon person sitting with red circles indicating muscle tension.

Muscle tension

Feel faint with needles? Try muscle tension! Squeeze your leg or stomach muscles for 10-15 seconds, then release for 20-30 seconds. Repeat until the immunization is over and you no longer feel faint. Muscle tension increases your blood pressure and blood flow to the brain, helping to prevent you from fainting. Make sure you tell your health care provider if you feel faint or have fainted with needles or other procedures before. Read this handout to learn more about muscle tension.


The CARD system (Comfort, Ask, Relax, Distract) can help prepare you for your immunization. Each letter of the word CARD is a different category of activities you can
play to help you have a better experience. Learn more about the CARD system.
CARD PDF preview.
Watch these short videos on how to use the CARD system if:
  • Vaccinations make you feel uncomfortable.
  • You have vaccination questions.
  • Vaccinations make you feel stressed.
  • Vaccinations make you nervous.