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Little Kids

How to make needles hurt less

Making needles less painful can prevent kids from being scared of getting vaccines. A paediatrician suggests ways to minimize the pain.

How to make needles hurt less

Photo: iStockphoto

My daughter finds needles really painful. What can I do to help?

Giving vaccinations is one of the hard parts of what we do as physicians, but they’re so important to protect your child from illness. There are a few things you can do to minimize pain. We know over-the-counter topical analgesics such as lidocaine (Maxilene) can decrease the skin’s sensitivity, so you may consider applying it 30 minutes before your child’s immunizations. But a lot of parents are surprised to learn it’s not a good idea to use oral pain killers before or after a shot—one study showed that giving acetaminophen (Tylenol) to a child after a needle could make the vaccine less effective. Holding your child or breastfeeding during vaccines can help. If your kid is older, distract her by reading a book or showing her a video or game on your phone. Singing a song or guiding her through a deep-breathing exercise (ask her to pretend she’s blowing out a birthday candle) can divert her attention as well. And remember, the pinch lasts for only a second—then you can pick your child up and reward her with praise until she forgets what happened!

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