Infant vaccinations are no fun. But anaesthetic cream can take away some of the sting, new research suggests.
After testing several techniques, researchers determined the best recipe for minimising babies' discomfort includes lidocaine cream at the site of the injection, a little sugar by mouth and parental soothing.
"Vaccinations cause acute distress for both infants and their parents, contributing to vaccination avoidance. However, there are gaps in knowledge about what is the best way to alleviate pain during vaccination," said study co-author Dr Anna Taddio. She is a pharmacist and senior associate scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
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The study included 352 healthy infants who received scheduled vaccinations during their first year. The babies were randomly assigned to one of four groups.
In one group, parents received video instruction on how to soothe their baby. Other parents were given the video plus oral sugar ("sucrose") solution for the baby. Another group received the video, oral sugar solution and lidocaine applied to the skin. The fourth group was assigned an inactive placebo treatment.
Benefit on acute pain
The study was published in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
"We found that, when used consistently during vaccine injections in the first year of life, only liposomal lidocaine combined with parental video instruction and orally administered sucrose showed a benefit on acute pain when compared with placebo, video alone, and video and sucrose together," the researchers wrote in a journal news release.
Read: Pain management
The study authors suggested that future research should examine the effects of consistent pain management on the development of pre-injection anxiety, hypersensitivity to pain and compliance with future vaccination.
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