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Sugar and hugs ease newborns' pain

Simple inexpensive steps like giving sugar or hugging reduce the pain felt by newborns when they are given a shot.

Sugar and hugs ease newborns pain

Simple inexpensive steps like giving sugar or hugging reduce the pain felt by newborns when they are given a shot.

A healthy newborn undergoes a number of routine but painful procedures before leaving the hospital including immunisation, blood collection and intramuscular injections. Distraction and other techniques to reduce stress and pain in adults and children do not work in newborns. Previous smaller studies have identified the pain reduction benefits of 10 to 30 minutes of skin-to-skin contact or a dose of sugar water separately.

To see if both sugar and skin contact with mother reduce pain in newborns, researchers randomly assigned 640 newborns to four analgesia (pain relief) groups of 160 each: no analgesia, dextrose (sugar)  on the tongue, skin-to-skin contact with mom (holding), or dextrose and holding by mom. Standard pain gauges, including facial expressions, crying duration, and heart rate, were used to gauge newborn pain during and after a routine vaccination. Which newborns received dextrose or plain water was not known by the researchers, but it was impossible to obscure which newborns were being held, making this study only partially blinded.

Combining skin-to-skin contact and a drop of dextrose to the newborn's tongue 2 minutes prior to the needle stick led to a significant reduction in pain scores compared to either technique alone, or no-analgesia. It was found that holding for as little as 2 minutes prior and 2 minutes following needle stick was sufficient.

The touch and smell of the mother and the sound of her heartbeat may block pain signals to the central nervous system or may fuel the release of the body's own pain-relieving hormones. New studies are needed to understand the mechanism underlying this simple non-drug pain-relieving approach.

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