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A Sweet Way to Calm Infants During Vaccination

Vaccine needle (Image credit: Dreamstime)

The taste of something sweet may help calm babies when they're getting vaccinated, a new review suggests.

The review analyzed information from 14 previous studies involving 1,551 babies ages 1 month to 1 year. Most of the studies looked at the effect of a sugar solution dripped into infants' mouths two minutes before they were vaccinated.

The results showed that babies given the sugary solution before getting the injection cried for a shorter time — about 13.5 seconds less, on average — compared with those who were given plain water.

There's a need for practical ways to manage pain in infants, and doctors may want to consider using a sweet-tasting solution for this purpose, the researchers said. Babies receive as many as 15 shots during the first 18 months of life.

While the results are promising, they should be interpreted with caution, the researchers said.

The studies used varying concentrations of sugar solution, and it's not clear which concentration provides the best results, the researchers explained. The total amount of solution to give and the best way to administer the dose are also not known, they said.

The researchers had wanted to examine a broader assessment of pain, known as a pain score, which takes into account not only crying, but also facial expressions, breathing patterns and movement of the arms and legs. While some  studies in the review did look at pain scores, they differed in the way they were carried out, which prevented the researchers from pooling the results and drawing firm conclusions.

A study published in 2010 and not included in the review found that when babies' brain waves are examined, sugar solutions do not appear to help relieve pain during injections.

The review, conducted by researchers at Jordan University of Science and Technology, is published in the December issue of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Pass it on:A sugar solution given before vaccination may assuage infants' crying.

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Rachael Rettner
Rachael has been with Live Science since 2010. She has a masters degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.