In the 1960s Walt Disney movie and 2006-present Broadway play, nanny Mary Poppins promises the Banks children “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” A study released in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, May 2010, by Denise Harrison, RN, PhD and colleagues at Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, suggests sugar may help beyond hiding the taste of medicine.
Less Pain for Babies Through 12 Months Old
The study reported the outcome of controlled trials which questioned benefits of sugar solution for easing newborn infants, up to 12 month old, pain for minor medical procedures, like immunizations. Feeding both sucrose (table sugar) and glucose (sugar made by the body out of starches) proved valuable in pain relief, but newborns appeared to benefit more than older babies.
The report emphasized older babies still cried less with sugar solution feeding, than with none before minor procedures like vaccinations. The report said evidence supports using these solutions “…along with other recommended… pain reduction strategies, such as non-nutritive sucking, breast-feeding or effective distraction, should be consistently utilized for immunization.”
Moms through the ages have practiced baby pain relief with distraction in any positive way, especially through the many comforts infants gain in sucking, whether by pacifier, bottle or breast. A 1997 British Medical Journal report by Dr. Nicolas Simon, chief of emergency at Poissy Hospital in Poissy, France, showed newborn infant pain relief using pacifiers for infants of maternity ward situations, combined with the use of sugar solutions.
The Australian study took the French results and mothers’ intuition one step further by expanding study results for babies up to 12 months old. In the 14 trials, babies received oral glucose or sucrose solutions, water or no pain treatment at all. In 13 of these trials, different sugar solution concentrations given during or after an immunization lowered duration and intensity of crying. In the last study, a 12% sucrose solution had the same result as with sterile water.
As long as the dose was sweet enough, both sucrose and glucose are helpful in reducing pain. This was in spite of the fact that sucrose is generally sweeter than glucose, according to the Archives of Disease in Childhood report.
The Bottom Line
Sucrose or glucose sugar solution feeding can be part of a combined strategy to ease baby distress from minor medical procedures. Allow babies to suck, whether breast, bottle, or pacifier. Distract babies with soothing voice and touch. Sugar solution feeding concentrations will vary according to patient needs and doctor recommendations.
Specific patient care decisions are the responsibility of the health care professional caring for the patient. Discuss and review the complete prescribing information, including warnings, adverse effects, contraindications, and precautions of these and any other medicine protocol. The information provided herein is does not necessarily represent the views of Lynn Pritchett or Associated Content.