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Comfort for Needle Procedures

Health care procedures, especially when we use a needle, can be stressful for children and teens.

Giving children ways to cope can help them:

  • have a sense of control

  • be a part of their own care, which can lead to higher self-esteem

  • cope with future health care events

  • have a better overall experience

Things we can do to help children with needle procedures

Numbing the skin


  • We have special medications we can put on your child’s skin to help them not feel the needle poke as much.



  • We have sucrose (sugar water) that acts as a pain reliever for babies who are 12 months or younger.

  • Sucrose should be given 2 minutes before the procedure and can be given on a pacifier, in a syringe, or on a finger.



  • We encourage you to breastfeed during the needle stick because research shows it helps your baby feel less pain.

  • Breastfeeding needs to begin 2-5 minutes before a procedure and continue during the procedure.

Comfort Positioning


  • We know letting kids sit upright helps provide them with comfort and a sense of control. We would like you, or another caregiver (nurse, child life specialist, etc.), to hold your child in your lap during the procedure if you are comfortable and would like to. This can allow you to comfort them while also helping them to remain still and safe during their procedure.

  • Babies can be swaddled and held.



  • Distract your child by helping them focus on something fun. Common choices include books, music, rattles, hand-held toys, phones, tablets and toys that make noise.

  • Playing counting games or games such as I Spy or singing are also fun and do not require supplies.

  • Taking deep breaths can also help the body relax and may make the procedure seem easier.

If you need distraction items during your clinic or lab visit, you can go to the Kreamer Resource Center for Families and check out a distraction kit. All inpatient areas have distraction items you can use. Child Life specialists are also available to provide information, distraction and support. Please ask your nurse or other staff member to contact Child Life to help support you and your child during needle procedures.

Numbing cream (4% Lidocaine)

When to use

  • 30 minutes before procedure

Where and how to apply

  • Apply a dime-sized amount if less than 22 pounds, or a quarter-sized amount if 22 pounds or more. Apply to intact skin where the needle procedure will take place.
  • The Lidocaine can be placed on more than one spot.
  • Do not wipe or wash the selected area unless dirty.
  • Rub a small amount into skin 30-50 seconds prior to applying the rest of the cream. This step is important o make sure the cream is activated.
  • Tegaderm or plastic wrap may be used to cover the area after applying. This can help ensure that the cream stays in that spot during the trip to the appointment.

Lidocaine cream is available for purchase at most drugstores or big-box stores.

When not to use

  • If you have a Lidocaine allergy.
  • With insulin injections.