Mary Poppins was right! A spoonful of sugar really CAN help the medicine go down
Babies given sugar before jabs show less distressBut it's not yet clear if sugar also helps relieve pain

Emily Payne


19:55 GMT, 12 December 2012



20:11 GMT, 12 December 2012

Childhood favourite Mary Poppins had some great advice

Childhood favourite Mary Poppins had some great advice

Mary Poppins may well have been onto something.

For a new study suggests that giving infants sugar before injections will in fact cause them less distress.

The Cochrane Collaboration – an international team of experts in various medical fields – looked at studies involving more than 1,500 children having immunisations.

They found that giving youngsters sugar drops a few moments before they had an injection meant they were less likely to cry – though it’s not yet clear whether sugar reduced the pain of the jab.

The review featured 14 studies involving 1,551 infants aged between birth and one year, going for routine childhood immunisations or a heel-prick blood test.

Babies given a sugary liquid to suck as they were about to be injected cried far less than those given water.

Dr Manal Kassab of the Jordan University of Science and
Technology in Irib, Jordan said: 'Giving babies something sweet to
taste before injections may stop them from crying for as long.'

'Although we can't confidently say that sugary solutions reduce needle pain, these results do look promising.'

One theory is that sugar may help to reduce pain by
triggering the release of pain-relieving chemicals in the body or by
contacting taste receptors that induce feelings of comfort.

Other experts say it is perhaps more
beneficial to think of sugar as a compensating pleasure, rather than a pain
reliever, according to an article published earlier
this year in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

Ouch: Experts say a sugary solution can ease a baby's distress before injections

Ouch: Experts say a sugary solution can ease a baby's distress before injections

But Dr David Elliman, of the Royal
College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said sugar solution was not
used routinely in practice.

He told the BBC: 'Generally,
doctors recommend that the mother holds the baby and comforts it while
they have their immunisation. If she is breastfeeding still, she might
want to breastfeed her baby at the same time.

'With older
children we try to distract them. If you do the usual holding and
comforting, I'm not sure how much sucrose would add.'

'What we do
know is that using a shorter needle tends to be more painful, even
though this might seem counterintuitive. That's because the injections
need to go into the muscle.'

The new reseach contradicts other previous research published in The Lancet, which found sugar did not
appear to make a difference to pain.

Researchers who looked at the responses of 44 infants given either sugar or
water as they had a blood test found all babies showed pain in their facial expressions. They also showed similar readings in the areas of the brain that process pain.

By the time a child has reached its
second birthday it should have had around 10 different injections to
protect against various infectious diseases, including measles, mumps
and rubella.