The sweet taste of sugar may provide some comfort for babies during immunisations, according to a Cochrane review.
Researchers found babies did not cry for as long if they were given drops of sugar solution before injections.
They suggest the 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.
The researchers reviewed data from 14 studies involving a total of 1,551 infants aged between one month and a year. Most studies compared water with sucrose, given two minutes before immunisation.
Overall, babies given the sugary solution cried for a shorter time than those given water. However, individual studies used different pain measures, making it difficult to conclude that sugar solutions actually reduced pain.
Lead reviewer Manal Kassab, a nurse researcher at the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid, 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.”
She added that future studies should examine the effects of different concentrations of sugar solution.
“We need to see more data from well-conducted trials in children under one year, especially in relation to optimal concentration, volume and method of administration of sugar solutions,” she said.