MMR Vaccine: Care Instructions

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An MMR vaccine protects against measles, mumps, and rubella. These diseases used to be common in children before the vaccine. Children get two doses of the MMR vaccine. They get the first dose when they are 12 to 15 months old and the second dose at 4 to 6 years old. Be sure to follow the vaccine schedule your doctor gives you. These shots will prevent measles, mumps, and rubella for life. But if your community has had a recent mumps outbreak, ask your health department if you or your child will need another dose.

The MMR vaccine may include the vaccine to protect against chickenpox (varicella) and is called the MMRV vaccine.

Sometimes doctors recommend the MMR vaccine for a child younger than 1 year if there is a measles outbreak. The vaccine also may be given to babies who will travel outside the United States. An MMR vaccine given before age 1 must be repeated when the child is older than 1.

A child who had a bad reaction to an MMR shot should not get another one. Be sure to tell your doctor if your child ever had a seizure or trouble breathing after a vaccine.

Some parents worry that the MMR vaccine causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children. But many studies have been done, and no link has been found between the MMR vaccine and ASD.

Adults born after 1956 who have not had the MMR vaccine should get at least one dose if they do not have evidence of immunity. People who have not had the MMR vaccine should get it at least 4 weeks before trying to get pregnant. Rubella during pregnancy can cause birth defects. If you are pregnant, you cannot get the vaccine until after your pregnancy is over.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Give acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) if your child has a slight fever after the MMR shot. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. It has been linked to Reye syndrome, a serious illness.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) if your joints feel sore or stiff after an MMR shot. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Your child may get a mild rash after the MMR vaccine. It usually goes away without treatment. Call your doctor if the rash does not go away or it gets worse.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you or your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You or your child has a seizure.
  • You or your child has symptoms of a severe allergic reaction. These may include:
    • Sudden raised, red areas (hives) all over the body.
    • Swelling of the throat, mouth, lips, or tongue.
    • Trouble breathing.
    • Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you or your child may feel very lightheaded or suddenly feel weak, confused, or restless.
    • Severe belly pain, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You or your child has symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as:
    • A rash or hives (raised, red areas on the skin).
    • Itching.
    • Swelling.
    • Mild belly pain or nausea.
  • You or your child has a high fever.
  • Your child cries for 3 hours or more within 2 days after getting the shot.

Watch closely for changes in your or your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.