Reducing childhood immunisation pain

Nearly every child feels some aversion when it comes to needles. In children and teens, the fear of needles can come from the fear of the pain, discomfort or the build-up of anxiety. For many children, the thought of having to have their routine immunisations can cause stress for the hours, days or weeks leading up to having their injections.

Immunisation nurse, Narelle Jenkins, believes two novel devices ‘Coolsense®‘ and ‘Buzzy®‘ could be the key to reducing the anxiety and pain associated with children getting their immunisations. A new study led by Narelle, funded by Templestowe Auxiliary, is looking into the most effective distraction and pain reduction techniques for children when having their immunisations.

The two devices will be compared to current standard care; which involves blowing bubbles to distract younger kids or using iPads for older children.

Coolsense® is a device originally developed and used for cosmetic procedures. It’s a hand-held pain numbing device that acts upon application, without chemicals, to cool and numb the site of injection. Buzzy® is a vibrating device which incorporates a cold pack. The combined effects of the vibration and cold confuse the body’s own nerves and distracts away from the injection and dulls or eliminates the pain.

Narelle has no misconceptions that these distraction and pain reduction devices will take that apprehension away completely, but she is hopeful that by finding the most effective technique for each age group of children it will reduce ongoing anxiety.

“You’re never going to get children to walk out and think ‘that was the best thing ever’, but you just want for kids to think ‘that wasn’t that bad’. We want to minimise the pain and anxiety enough that the whole experience was ok – get get them coming back,” said Narelle.

“If we don’t manage it right when children first come into the Immunisation Clinic it can lead to needle phobia. We don’t want this fear or anxiety to effect anyone seeking medical attention in the future or not having vaccines in the future. Having that adequate pain management can reduce the risk of parental non-adherence with vaccinations.”

The study will incorporate two large randomised controlled trials of around 500 children each. One will focus on younger children aged three and a half to 10 and the other will focus on older children aged 10 to 18 and investigate which of the three distraction and pain reduction techniques – Coolsense®, Buzzy®, or current ‘standard practice’ – is best in each age group.

“The results of this study will guide our practice. No one is currently using these devices in an immunisation setting so we are really leading the way and can provide guidance to other immunisation service providers in the community on best practice.”

Narelle is grateful to the Templestowe Auxiliary for providing the funding for her research which will inform care provided to children presenting for vaccines within the hospital and more broadly.

“I am extremely grateful that we were given this opportunity by the Templestowe Auxiliary to run these trials.”

“We didn’t have the resources within our immunisation service to set up the study, purchase the devices and run it without the funding support. Given we are here for the children of the hospital and community we want how we operate to be based on best practice. This funding has allowed us to start this trial as quickly as possible and we will be able to share our results with other immunisation providers and provide the best experience possible to kids.”