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10 Top Tips for making immunisations a positive experience

The Rise of Needle Phobia

No one enjoys getting injections. And yet, over our lifetime there will likely be numerous times when our health will require a medical procedure that involves a needle; whether that’s immunisation, a blood test or delivery of intravenous medicines.

Sadly, over the last 20 years, needle phobia has drastically increased; with one in four people suffering from the fear of needles. Perhaps more worryingly, it is believed one in 10 people will avoid vaccinations or needle procedures entirely, due to a fear of needles. This presents a significant challenge for the medical professionals whose job it is to protect us from serious, sometimes life-threatening illnesses.

Like many fears, needle phobia often originates from negative experiences in our childhood. Which is why it is so important that we do everything we can to make vaccinations as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

Buzzy Bee for pain management

It was through personal experience of taking her own son for his routine vaccinations, that Dr Amy Baxter came up with the idea of Buzzy Bee; a playful and effective pain management tool, specifically designed to give children a positive experience when receiving those all important vaccinations.

As a medical professional, Dr Baxter was convinced of the need to protect her son from diseases and illness such as measles, mumps, rubella and polio. However, as a mum, she felt ill-equipped to protect him from the traumatic experience of being injected.

Baxter reflects on the irony, “Every time we had to go to the doctor, my son would get physically ill. There I was, a paediatric physician and pain specialist, and I couldn’t even protect my own kid. What were other parents going to do?” 

Motivated on both a professional and personal level, Dr Baxter spent time researching into solutions for reducing the pain and anxiety experienced during childhood vaccinations. As injections and the use of needles play a vital part in modern medical care, she wanted to equip both parents and medical practitioners with a tangible tool that would stop children from developing a fear of needles.

The results of Dr Baxter’s research was the creation of Buzzy Bee, a small vibrating bee with cooling ice-pack wings that, along with other proven pain management techniques, can help reduce injection pain by 75%.

10 top tips for reducing the pain of immunisations

So what are the techniques you can use to help children through uncomfortable procedures? How can Buzzy Bee help?

Here are our top ten tips for reducing the pain of vaccinations.

1. Knowledge is power

As it is the parent’s responsibility to bring their children in for immunisations, empowering them to play their part during the procedure is going to lay the foundations for success. Any information given to them prior to the appointment, that outlines the procedure and what they can do to help their children have the best experience possible, will mean they arrive confident and calm.

2. Breastfeeding infants

Research shows that breastfeeding can have analgesic effects. Essentially, the physical connection to their mother, the act of sucking and the sweet-tasting milk all help to reduce pain for the baby. For best results, the breastfeeding mother should start breastfeeding before the procedure and continue during and after the injections. 

3. The power of sugar

For infants up to 12 months, who are not breastfed, a sucrose solution given 1-2 minutes before the injections, also has the potential to give pain relief. One approach to preparing a sucrose solution is to mix one packet or cube of sugar with 10 ml (two teaspoons) of water in a medicine cup. Alternatively, sucrose solutions can be obtained from some pharmacies. Again, if the parent or caregiver bringing the child to the appointment is given this information ahead of time, they can come prepared.

4. Honesty is always the best policy

Building up trust with patients is very much on the agenda, so lying to a child and telling them it won’t hurt is not recommended. It may keep them calm before the first injection, but the inevitable pain will then come as a shock and the patient will have learnt that medical professionals aren’t honest with them. Equally, parents should be encouraged to be honest with their child for the same reason. The truth is, it will hurt a bit; but it’s also true that it’s over quickly.

5. The medical practitioner is not to be feared

Once the child and accompanying grown up arrives in the room, it’s important to put them at ease. This is your patch, and you are in control. A friendly and happy medical professional will affirm the thought that this is nothing to worry about and certainly nothing to be fearful of.

Introducing Buzzy Bee to the young patient, gives you an opportunity to engage them in conversation and create a rapport with them.

6. Injection order

Generally, children will be receiving more than one injection during their appointment, and some vaccinations are more painful than others. Plus, pain increases with every injection. Studies have shown that, when multiple injections are required, giving the most painful injection last will decrease the overall pain from both injections.

7. Sitting up, not lying down

Research shows that infants and children sitting up during injections is better for management of pain. Depending on the age and size of the child, helping them to get in a comfortable position whilst their parents hold them will mean the health practitioner is able to focus on giving speedy and successful injections.

As they are settling themselves on their parent’s lap, you can help attach Buzzy Bee near to the injection area.  For best results, Buzzy should be put into position 30—60 seconds before the injection.

8. Tactile Stimulation

Providing tactile stimulation reduces the sensation of pain. It has been proven that vibration and cold can block the pain of an injection, in the same way that rubbing a bumped elbow helps the pain go away or cold running water soothes a burn.

Buzzy uses a combination of cold and vibration to replace pain with temperature and movement. Buzzy confuses the body’s nerves and distracts attention away from the pain, thereby dulling or eliminating sharp injection pain.

9. Distraction

We all know the pain is real, but it’s fleeting and distraction away from the procedure can make it feel like it was over in a second. Studies show that when parents focus on subjects that aren’t connected to the injection and try to make the child laugh, it’s far more effective than when they sympathise and console. Using Buzzy Distraction Cards will help parents to stay away from the unhelpful topics.

With older children and teenagers, audio or visual devices provide effective distraction. This is one of those rare times when they should be encouraged to play on their iPhone.

Why not put together a distraction kit for your clinic, including: a Buzzy Bee, distraction cards, pop-up books, bubbles, pinwheels and party blowers.

10. Breathing Techniques

Slow, deep breathing exercises not only work as a relaxation strategy, if facilitated by toys or activities, for example blowing bubbles, blowing a pinwheel or party blowers, they also serve as a distraction by focusing attention away from the procedure.

Show the child how to “tummy breath”, taking a deep breath in and then blowing it out slowly. Keep coaching the child to breathe deeply during the procedure.

Lasting memories

Once the injections are done, lots of praise will go a long way. Positive affirmation as the last part of the procedure is a great way to end.

By using a combination of these top ten tips for pain reduction, patients will remember the needle pain as only a small part of the procedure. With any luck, the lasting memories of immunisations taken into adulthood will be of Buzzy Bees and funny conversations.