A Spoonful of Sugar to Sweeten Vaccines’ Sting

It can be difficult to explain to a two-year-old that the scary-looking needle headed for her arm will actually help keep her healthy. To a young child, “I’m giving you a vaccine to protect you from the measles” often sounds more like, “I’m going to jab you with a pointy object.” Childhood vaccinations come with their share of pain and crying.

In a review published in Archives of Disease in Childhood (A BMJ journal), Denise Harrison and co-authors report that feeding sugar solutions to children during or after vaccinations can reduce the incidence and duration of crying, as well as pain.

Previous research had established that sugar solutions could reduce pain associated with vaccination in newborn children–a key finding, since the first dose of Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended before newborns are discharged from the hospital. However, beyond one month of age, the evidence was not conclusive. Harrison and her colleagues set out to compare the effects of sugar solutions to that of water, as well as no treatment, in children 1-12 months old–a period of time during which it’s recommended they receive Hepatitis B, rotavirus, DTaP, Hib, pneumococcal, and polio vaccines.

By reviewing 14 randomized controlled trials, the researchers determined that giving sugar solutions (in the form of glucose or sucrose) to children 1-12 months old moderately reduced both the incidence and duration of crying. They concluded by recommending that healthcare professionals consider giving children glucose or sucrose before or during vaccinations.

Source and additional information:

Harrison D, Stevens B, Bueno M, Yamada J, Adams-Webber T, Beyene J, Ohlsson A. Efficacy of sweet solutions for analgesia in infants between 1 and 12 months of age: a systematic review. Arch Dis Child 2010;95:406-413 Published Online First: 12 May 2010 doi:10.1136/adc.2009.174227
Link to abstract: http://adc.bmj.com/content/early/2010/04/21/adc.2009.174227.short

Neale, Todd. “That ‘Spoonful’ of Sugar Actually Works.” MedPage Today, May 12, 2010.
Link to article: http://www.medpagetoday.com/PainManagement/PainManagement/20070