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That’s the aim of a new set of guidelines published in an August 2015 online edition of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Based on a review of pain studies, health professionals are urged to take a number of steps to reduce the pain associated with vaccines—and with it, potential long-term fears of both needles and the sting of the vaccine medication itself.
Anna Taddio, a professor of pharmacy at the University of Toronto, helped develop the guidelines as part of a group called Help Eliminate Pain in Kids. “There’s a lot of anxiety around the needle that we can do a much better job addressing by changing how we deliver vaccinations, and just putting more care [into] addressing people’s concerns about pain,” Taddio told The Globe and Mail.
The big idea: Don’t treat pain as a normal, unavoidable part of vaccinations, but as a side-effect, reports the Globe. It’s an idea that is being adopted worldwide; many of the recommendations of Taddio’s group were adopted by the World Health Organization in April 2015.
Your next needle
These guidelines could change your next doctor’s appointment (and make you less likely to avoid the doctor’s office). Here’s what you need to know about some of the main recommendations:
- Doctors should stop the practice of aspiration, which is a technique used to ensure the needle isn’t hitting a blood vessel. It involves pulling the syringe of the needle back for a few seconds before injecting the vaccine. It can be painful because of the added time it takes and the wiggling action of the needle. It also happens to be unnecessary in vaccine injections because the sites used don’t have a lot of blood vessels
- Doctors should inject the most painful vaccine last in people of all ages —because pain can increase with each subsequent injection. Starting with the most painful can set the stage for more pain in total. Examples of painful vaccines include the measles mumps and rubella vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine Prevnar.
- In children under two, breastfeeding during vaccination can be an effective method of pain relief. The authors suggest breastfeeding reduces distress by offering physical comfort, distraction and ingestion of milk.
- For kids who aren't breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact is still helpful, as well as sweet treats and topical anesthetics.
Need help overcoming pain? Learn alternative ways of dealing with pain.