Have you ever been nervous to receive an injection such as a vaccine?  Most vaccines given to adults are intramuscular (IM) injections.  Vaccines are very safe and effective and are the best protection against many serious diseases.  We want you to understand where the IM injection site is located, how to prepare yourself before and after an IM injection and what to expect when receiving an IM injection.  Here are the top five most commonly asked questions we receive at our vaccine clinics regarding this topic.

1. What is the site for an IM injection?

The most common site for an IM injection is the deltoid muscle in the upper arm.  This muscle is located by finding the knobby part of the shoulder and then going two or three fingerbreadths down.  The needle should be inserted at a 90 degree angle.  Using this technique will avoid the radial nerve and deep brachial artery.  The deltoid is a fairly small muscle so finding the landmarks will prevent any injuries to the shoulder.

2. What are the common side effects after receiving a vaccine intramuscularly?

The most common side effects after receiving a vaccine include mild side effects such as:

• Redness, swelling or pain at the injection site

• Fever

• Chills 

• Fatigue

• Headache

• Muscle or joint aches

3. What can I do to prepare myself prior to receiving an IM injection such as a vaccine?

Prior to receiving a vaccine you should get the facts about the vaccine you are receiving by reading the vaccine information statement (VIS) in entirety.  The VIS will explain the benefits and risks of receiving the vaccine.  You will want to speak to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns prior to getting the vaccine.  Also, make sure to stay hydrated and eat something prior to receiving the vaccine which will help alleviate some of the side effects that may arise.

 4. What should I expect to happen when I am receiving an IM injection?

When you come to receive the vaccine the provider will ask you which arm you would like the vaccine in.  You will be asked to expose your arm completely so the provider administering the vaccine will be able to see the landmarks noted above clearly.  You will be asked to relax your arm to the side which can make the shot more comfortable.  If you are feeling nervous during the injection try taking deep breaths and avoid looking at the needle.  The injection should feel like a pinch or bee sting.  

5. What should I do after receiving an IM injection?

After you receive the injection, continue to drink plenty of fluids.  You can also place a cool, wet wash cloth or ice on the injection site, take a pain reliever if needed and continue to move the arm as much as possible.

Some more serious complications that would warrant a call to your doctor include:

• Severe pain at the injection site

• Tingling or numbness

• Drainage at the injection site 

• Prolonged bleeding

• Signs of an allergic reaction

We give vaccine at Richland County Health Department Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. by appointment.  Richland County Health Department shares all public COVID-19 vaccine clinics on https://vaccinereg.health.nd.gov/ and search by name of location:  Richland.

Miranda Andel RN, BSN, is a Public Health Nurse at Richland County Health Department.  

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