Babies given sugar beforehand cried less
It appears that sugar really may help the medicine go down – studies suggest a few drops can comfort babies who are having their jabs.
The Cochrane team reviewed 14 studies involving more than 1,500 infants going for routine childhood immunisations or a heel-prick blood test.
Babies given a sugary solution to suck as they were about to be injected cried far less than those given water.
While sugar may pacify, it is unclear if it also relieves pain.
Experts say more research is needed to explore this.
If you do the usual holding and comforting, I’m not sure how much sucrose would add”
Dr David Elliman Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
A small study published a couple of years ago in The Lancet medical journal looked at the responses of 44 infants given either sugar or water as they had a heel-prick blood test.
The sugar did not appear to make a difference to pain – all babies similarly grimaced and had comparable electrical activity measured with EEG readings in areas of the brain that process pain.
The lead researcher in the Cochrane review, Dr Manal Kassab of the Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irib, Jordan, said: “Giving babies something sweet to taste before injections may stop them from crying for as long.
“Although we can’t confidently say that sugary solutions reduce needle pain, these results do look promising.”
Dr David Elliman of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said sugar solution was not used routinely in practice.
“Generally, doctors recommend that the mother holds the baby and comforts it while they have their immunisation. If she is breastfeeding still, she might want to breastfeed her baby at the same time.
“With older children we try to distract them. If you do the usual holding and comforting, I’m not sure how much sucrose would add.
“What we do know is that using a shorter needle tends to be more painful, even though this might seem counterintuitive. That’s because the injections need to go into the muscle.”
By the time a child has reached its second birthday it should have had around 10 different injections to protect against various infectious diseases, including measles, mumps and rubella.