Pain-Relief Secrets for Kids

Take the Sting Out of Shots

EMLA Cream

Topical anesthetic that deadens pain. You request it before the visit and apply it beforehand.

Pro: Works very well and most pharmacies carry it.

Con: Must be applied an hour before the shot, so it takes some planning.

Vapocoolant Spray

Rapidly cools a small area of skin to help reduce the pain of needle pricks.

Pro: Works within seconds.

Con: Many pediatricians don't keep it in their office. Some studies show it doesn't reduce pain nearly as well as EMLA.

Numby Stuff (Iontophoresis)

An anesthetic similar to EMLA is applied to the skin, and a device uses a tiny amount of electric current to speed its absorption.

Pro: Numbs the skin in about 15 minutes.

Con: The electric current feels funny to some kids and can cause mild irritation. Most doctors don't have it in their office.

Pacifier Dipped in Sugar Water

Start giving it to your child a few minutes before a shot to distract her with the pleasant taste.

Pro: Cheap and easy, it works within two minutes.

Con: Not as helpful with older toddlers and doesn't eliminate pain entirely.

Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Parents magazine.

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