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Teens Guard Your Arm, Gardasil Hurts!

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Vaccine that prevents cervical cancer in girls has the reputation of being a very painful shot.


The Associated Press is reporting the rumors swirling around the Gardasil vaccine about how the shots are more painful than most. The pain reportedly ranges from slight discomfort to girls actually fainting. When we started reading this report we thought, duh, shots hurt but kids fainting? Did many girls faint from this shot or did one girl faint and it became the shot heard around the world? We turned to our resident pediatrician, Dr. Cara Natterson for some clarity...

"In my practice, I certainly hear many teens complain about the sting of the HPV injection. But it is not the only teenage shot that prompts a reaction. The tetanus shot and the meningitis shot also elicit their
fair share of whines. HPV probably stings more than most going in, but within several minutes, most kids say they feel fine. Motrin or Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) are good pain relievers. But most kids don’t need them." There you have it, sometimes shots elicit a little pain.

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19 comments so far | Post a comment now
Nikki January 10, 2008, 1:01 PM

My understanding has been that the fainting after this shot is not due to the pain, but rather to the neurological damage caused by the shot.

Amanda January 10, 2008, 4:38 PM

This shot is rediculously painful. I did not faint but came close to it. My arm swelled to twice its size and i got huge welts. I can’t lift my arm for a week after I get it. It is so painful and I normally don’t even bat an eye at getting shots. The pain going in is nothing compared to the pain immediately following… for a week afterward too.

Joann March 12, 2008, 10:34 PM

I agree that it wasn’t terribly pleasant, but let’s not foget that the shot is far LESS painful than cervical cancer. Or even HPV, for that matter, which infects 1 out of every 4 teenage girls, and requires several invasive procedures to detect and treat.

Andrea March 26, 2008, 2:49 PM

I got this shot last night. It was my third one. The first two hurt a lot but the one I got yesterday caused me to faint. I was fine because I’m used to getting shots. My mom & I were getting in my car and I felt really dizzy. I grabbed my moms arm and passed out, falling backwards, hitting my head on the floor very hard. I then was sent to the emergency room. Got a cat scan, echo, and ekg test and was sent home. My heads still pounding, my neck is really sore, and I fractured my tailbone. My advice about this shot is either A) Don’t get it or B) Wait in the doctors office for up to 15 minutes after getting the shot and make sure they check your blood pressure before you leave.

Taylor July 15, 2008, 4:42 PM

Ive only gotten the first one and after the first day it only stung a little. Now its the second day and I cant move my arm without it hurting pretty bad and im good with pain. Ive had my nose and belly button done. Neither compare to this stupid shot.

Sammy July 20, 2008, 11:14 PM

My mom is thinking about making me get this shot and i am more than terrifide!…shots,needles, fainting?!?! i dont think i can handle it considering the fact she wont listen to me about getting out of it! what can i ask her to convince her to change her mind?

goche21 August 3, 2008, 12:44 PM

The HPV shot doesn’t cause neurological damage Nikki, and even if it did it’s impossible that it would cause so much damage as to make a person faint within fifteen minutes of getting it only for the symptom to disappear the next day. Trust me when I say brain damage does *not* act this way.

Back on subject, I think the most important thing to do is to remember to sit and rest after this shot. If it is painful enough to cause girls to pass out, then relax for a bit. Drink something and don’t aggravate the situation. After a few minutes slowly go to your car and carefully get in.

Wish I could give you a first hand experience, but I’m not getting it.

Allison September 16, 2008, 8:56 PM

I got the second dosage of the shot today and my arm hurts like the dickens. But on the subject of fainting, I fainted once from a shot— not from the pain of it, though. It was afterwards, like Andrea discribed. I don’t think the fainting is directly related to the vaccine itself, but to medication in general.

I just hope I don’t faint; I drive myself to and from these appointments…

amanda December 6, 2008, 11:44 PM

I just got my last shot today, early in the morning. The first 2 shots did sting a little and made my arm hurt for a little while. But this last one, oh my, my arm is killing me. I’ve taken paint killers nothing seems to be helping. I just hope the paint will go away by tomorrow.

Kelsey December 10, 2008, 9:39 PM

I’ve gotten all three of these shots, and honestly it didn’t hurt at all. I got at least one of these shots in the hip, which seems to lessen the pain. My sister also got the shot, as well as my friend, and there was no pain at all.

ananomus December 3, 2009, 1:44 PM

I saw on the web that 18 people died because of the vaccine!

anonymous March 15, 2010, 4:25 PM

i have to get the third one tomorrow and I’m SO scared. My friends said the second one hurts the most but now all this talk about the 3rd one hurting the most is really scaring me. If I don’t get this third one will anything happen? I’m trying to talk my mom out of it=P. The first and second ones hurt a lot as the fluid was being injected, but after that nothing. But I am still very scared of the though of it. I think I am making myself think that it is going to hurt more than it actually will. I just really hope they run out of vaccines or something like that. HAHA

anonymus June 20, 2010, 5:24 PM

i am getting my tommorow and i am really scared. i faint a lot though so i am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo afriad, but at least it prevents the cancer.

lyssa October 6, 2010, 2:09 PM


Courtney October 9, 2010, 7:10 PM

I got my second shot two days ago. It wasn’t a big deal. I’m terrified of needles. I cried like a baby when I had to get my shots a few months ago. I was a little sore after them(because I played volleyball right after I got the shots). First one was easy, not any pain or discomfort during the shot, just a bit of soreness the next day. The second shot stung during the shot, within 3 minutes the pain was gone and I haven’t been sore at all. I’m not looking forward to the third, I’ve heard the needle is big and rather painful. But I’m not going to be a baby about it.

They really aren’t that bad girls. A little sting and soreness, or cervical cancer/HPV? Easy choice.

Saul Slostad December 17, 2010, 7:04 AM

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Jennifer April 23, 2011, 3:59 PM

I got the 1st shot with no bad side effects. I don’t even remember having experienced a significant amount of pain either. With my 2nd shot, however, the shot was very painful. It immediately felt like fire running all the way through my arm. This is the 1st time EVER that I complained to the nurse that it hurt a lot.

After the 2nd shot, I had such horrible pain in my arm that I couldn’t sleep on it or move it. I couldn’t put a jacket on or drive a car without being in severe pain. This lasted for over a month. I had no redness, no swelling, or any pain besides the arm in which the shot was injected. Finally, after a month and a half of severe and debilitating pain, my doctor gave me steroids and vicodin for the pain. The pain did eventually go away, but my doctor and I both agree that I should not get the 3rd shot.

erin May 15, 2011, 5:58 PM

I fainted when I got this, but i always faint when I get shots. It wasn’t different than any other except for the soreness in my arm was longer than usual.

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