Infants getting shots at the doctor's office cry less when they are held by their parents and given sugar water and bottles or pacifiers, a study found. The extra steps eased parents' minds and took only about five seconds more than the old-fashioned way of immunizing infants - while they lie on an examining table, without any pain relief.
"This simple, effective and feasible intervention ... can be readily incorporated into standard infant immunization practice,'' said researchers led by Dr. Evelyn Cohen Reis at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Their research was reported in November's Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, published Monday. Doctors used to believe young infants feel little or no pain.
In recent years, that thinking has changed, and studies have shown that babies' crying can be reduced by giving them sugar or local anesthetics during medical procedures such as circumcisions. With the continued introduction of new vaccines, children get up to 20 injections by age 2, so pain relief remains a concern throughout early childhood.
The researchers recruited families through the Pittsburgh hospital for their study of 116 babies receiving the typical four shots at their two-month immunizations. Infants given the intervention received a bottle of sugar water two minutes before the injections, then used a bottle or pacifier during the shots while being held.
In those babies, the first cry during the shots lasted an average of 19 seconds, compared with nearly 58 seconds for the regular-care babies. Total crying spells lasted about 92 seconds versus 118 seconds.
It is unclear whether breast feeding also would comfort the children, because none of the mothers tried that during the study. Dr. Michael Wasserman, a New Orleans pediatrician with the Ochsner Clinic Foundation, said the results were "pretty impressive.''
"We physicians need to be flexible,'' Wasserman said. "As long as we think there is limited potential of hurting the patient and distracting us from doing our job properly, sure, we're willing to try it.''