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Pain Relief for Children’s Immunizations

Pain Reduction, Sick Baby

During the first year of a baby’s life, numerous immunizations will be given. While all of these childhood shots are necessary to keep your baby safe and healthy, they can be quite painful. There are some things you can do to be proactive and provide a little bit of relief from these painful stings.

First of all, the parent’s demeanor during the vaccination procedure can greatly affect how the child views the situation. A child will pick up on the parent’s uneasiness through excessive reassurance that everything is okay, criticism, and apologizing for the pain. These parental behaviors will not make the child feel any better, but will increase the child’s distress.

The child’s age, gender, temperament, cultural background, and previous experiences with pain all pay an important part in how the child will view the current painful experience. These factors cannot be changed, but a parent can recognize these factors and use them to assist their children in pain management.

Many pediatricians will recommend giving a child an appropriate dose of Tylenol about 30 minutes before the scheduled immunization. Not only will this assist in pain management, but it will also keep swelling down and prevent possible fever.

Many parents also swear by these pain management techniques: apply a warm cloth to the injection site, allow the child to use a pacifier (possibly even dipped in sugar water), breastfeed or bottle feed after the injection. If possible, hold or swaddle your child during the injection.

Other possible ways to decrease distress include humor and distraction. However, distraction techniques can vary with the child’s age, temperament, and interests. Try telling an older child a joke or reading a book during the shot. Also, bring a lovey or other favorite toy along to the doctor’s office. A parent can teach their child some relaxation and breathing methods. Children should also understand the purpose of the vaccines. Make sure you explain that the shots will aid in their health and safety and is a sign that they are getting bigger.

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In the June 2009 issue of Parents Magazine, there is a list of products which can be helpful in making the shots less painful. EMLA cream which is a topical anesthetic that decreases pain. You must request it from the doctor before and most pharmacies carry it. It is applied an hour before the shot. Vapocoolant spray quickly cools the area of skin to assist in pain reduction. However, many pediatricians do not include this in their office supplies. Numby Stuff involves an anesthetic cream similar to EMLA cream applied to the skin area and then a device uses a small amount of electric current to speed up its absorption. Again, they mention using a pacifier dipped in sugar water. They say to give it to the child a few minutes before the shot to distract with the sweet taste.

A parent must understand that they will not be able to protect their child from all painful situations during their life. At least, with these techniques, a trip to the doctor for another shot may be more comfortable and less stressful.


Darshak Sanghavi, MD, Pain-Relief Secrets, Parents Magazine, www.parents.com/baby/health/sick-baby/pain-relief-secrets/, Parents.com