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Thigh Is Safer Vaccination Site Than Arm for Toddlers, Study Finds

Posted: Jan 14, 2013 7:00 AM by Robert Preidt

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MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- Giving the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine in the thigh rather than the arm reduces a toddler's risk of an injection-site reaction that requires medical attention, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at data from 1.4 million young children, aged 12 months to 35 months, in the United States and found that those who received a DTaP vaccine injection in their thigh muscle were half as likely to be brought to a doctor, nurse or emergency room for treatment of an injection-site reaction than those who received the shot in their arm.

"These local reactions are the most common side effect of vaccinations, but we have known relatively little about how to prevent them," study leader Dr. Lisa Jackson, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute in Seattle, said in an institute news release.

Local reactions typically go away after a day or two. But they can be painful and the redness and swelling caused by the reaction can concern parents.

Jackson and her colleagues also looked at local reactions that occurred in children aged 3 years to 6 years after receiving injections of vaccines other than DTaP, including flu and hepatitis A, but found no differences between giving the injection in the thigh or the arm.

The study was published online Jan. 14 in the journal Pediatrics.

"Our findings support current recommendations to give intramuscular vaccinations in the thigh for children younger than 3 years," Jackson said.

The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that intramuscular vaccinations for children aged 12 months to 35 months preferably be given in the thigh muscle (or in the deltoid muscle of the arm if it's big enough), and to children aged 3 years and older in the deltoid muscle of the arm.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about childhood vaccines.

SOURCE: Group Health Research Institute, news release, Jan. 14, 2013

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