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Procedural pain management

Pediatric specialists at Dell Children’s Medical Center listen to understand and reduce your child’s worry and discomfort from needle sticks.

Pediatric pain management specialist at Dell Children’s working with a child before a needle stick procedure.

Procedural pain management at Dell Children’s

Needles can cause pain and fear for children and their families. Pediatric specialists at Dell Children's Medical Center, part of Ascension Seton, start by listening to understand your concerns and your child’s worries about needle sticks. Then, we’ll create a personalized pain management plan that’s right for your child.

Your child’s care team may include pediatric anesthesiologists, pediatric nurses, certified child life specialists, and more. Before your child’s procedure, we take the time to explain what to expect in a way that your child understands. Understanding what to expect can help reduce your child’s fears. We also talk with you about pain management options for your child.

How do pain management specialists treat pain?

Because each child reacts to pain differently, it is important for you and your child to have a conversation with your care team at Dell Children’s. We listen to understand your concerns and your child’s worries about needle sticks.

We take a team approach to pain management and understand how pain can take a toll on your child’s physical and mental health. Our goal is to deliver the best customized treatment for your child – from positioning and positive distraction to pain medications and light anesthesia. We can also connect your family with mental health specialists if needed.

How can I reduce my child’s pain and fear?

Not every procedure can be pain-free, but letting your child know ahead of time when they will be getting a needle stick helps them trust you and their care team. Your child will sense your emotions, so it is important to stay calm and reassuring. How you talk to your child before, during and after they receive a needle stick has been shown to affect how they cope with the procedure.

There are many ways you and your child’s care team can help reduce the pain and fear your child might experience during a needle stick procedure:

Comfort positioning

Most children feel more safe and comfortable sitting upright rather than lying down. If your child is able, this might help them feel more at ease during a procedure. Because sitting helps keep other limbs from moving during the procedure, this is often the safest and most comfortable position for small children. For infants, swaddling can be used during many procedures to provide comfort.


Distracting your child can be effective when used with one of the numbing or pain-reducing methods. You can help keep their focus off the procedure. For example, you can sing a song, read a book or introduce a toy right before the procedure to distract your child. Your child may want to watch the procedure, but you can redirect them back to the distraction after the procedure is complete. A child life specialist may be present to also provide effective distraction.

Breastfeeding or sugar water

Breastfeeding or dipping a pacifier in sugar water 2-3 minutes before a procedure has been shown to reduce pain in infants younger than 6 months old. Get in a comfortable position and swaddle your child, if possible. Start breastfeeding or offer the sugar water and pacifier 1-2 minutes before the procedure. Continue during the procedure. If your child releases, redirect them to keep going.


Your child’s care team may use a numbing cream or spray to numb the skin. Numbing cream is applied to the spot of the needle stick and can be used on almost all children. Numbing spray works best on children age 4 and older.

Devices to help minimize pain

Devices that can help minimize pain from a needle stick may be an option for your child. Ask your nurse which of these may be available.

Procedural pain management