Ouch! How to Make Shots Less Painful for Kids
No kid likes getting a shot, and for many children, the
fear and pain surrounding immunizations can make them dread every doctor visit. But doctors
can make children's shots less of an ordeal, and parents can borrow from their
playbook to reduce the misery of shots.
A new study in Pediatrics detailing how doctors
can make shots less miserable couldn't have come at a better time. My usually
cheery second-grader fretted over whether she'd need a shot at the doctor's
this morning, and was upset when she was told she would. I'd come armed with
lollypops, since I'd read up on research saying that a bit of sugar just before
the shot reduces pain, even in tiny babies. And I also had " The Brave Monkey Pirate" by Hayes Roberts, loaded on my iPhone for just
this occasion. The story explains how Modi overcomes his fear of shots, with
the help of his dad, a crab wizard, and a rock that transports him into the
future. My daughter read it while waiting for the dreaded shot.
The pediatrician helped, too, offering to spritz her arm
with a cooling spray that temporarily numbs skin. That, and numbing lotions
like lidocaine, can help reduce the initial "ouch." My daughter did
wince, but the shot was over before she had a chance to get upset. Then we were
off to the corner store for a congratulatory bag of Cheetos.
It turned out that our pediatrician's office did a lot of
things right, according to the Pediatrics study, which tested whether
training parents and office staff in techniques to reduce children's pain and
anxiety made immunizations less stressful. The techniques included:
the child and family for shots by giving them information on ways to
reduce anxiety and pain.
a baby a pacifier dipped in sugar water just before the shot. (Lollypops
work great for older kids.)
older children by having them count, breathe deeply, or blow on a pinwheel
during the shot. (Modi, the Brave Monkey Pirate, squeezes his magic rock
and counts to three.)
sure the person administering the shot uses good technique, including
using a longer needle to keep the injection away from sensitive nerves in
the skin. The study also tested ShotBlocker, a flexible piece of plastic
used to put pressure on the child's skin around the injection site, which
is marketed as reducing pain.
topical anesthetics like lidocaine to numb the skin.
The parents in the study, which was led by researchers at
Hospital Boston, said they learned new comforting and pain reduction
techniques, particularly the sugar-dipped pacifier for infants, and pinwheels
or ShotBlockers for older children. Pediatricians reported increasing the use
of longer needles, which reduce pain by delivering the immunization farther
away from the skin, and also increasing their use of sugared pacifiers,
pinwheels, focused breathing, and ShotBlockers.
Much of medicine focuses on life-or-death issues, like
preventing and treating major diseases. But for most of us, our experience with
medicine is far more mundane. For children, the biggest question about their
health may well be: "Do I have to get a shot?" This study shows that
grownups can do better at making children's encounters with medical care much
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