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What’s worse: getting a vaccine or watching your child in distress when he or she gets a vaccine? For many parents, their own heartbreak when experiencing their child’s needle pain makes vaccines and blood draws that much more difficult for both. In time, as a news item from KFF Health News notes, the distress of needle pain can follow children as they grow, posing a barrier to preventive care into adulthood. As many as a quarter of adults have a fear of needles. Rather than seeing needle pain as an inevitable side effect of healthcare services, providers at the University of California-San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland are adopting the “Ouchless Jab Challenge.” The protocols include: using over-the-counter lidocaine; breastfeeding or offering sugar-covered pacifiers to babies; distractions like toys or soap bubbles; and secure hugs from parents instead of holding kids down on an exam table.

Another little pinch: The hope is that reducing pain and distress can help encourage parents to get their children vaccinated and access other preventive care. Beyond pediatrics, experts believe similar measures—such as applying lidocaine or offering a treat—may also help reduce distress for adult dementia patients as well.

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Taking the Distress Out of Needle Pokes