Comparative study of distraction versus topical anesthesia for pediatric pain management during immunizations

Health Psychol. 1999 Nov;18(6):591-8. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.18.6.591.


This study compared distraction, an anesthetic (eutectic mixture of local anesthetics [EMLA]), and typical care during pediatric immunizations. Participants were 39 4th graders receiving a 3-injection vaccination series over a 6-month period. Children displayed low distress despite reporting moderate anxiety and pain. Distraction resulted in more nurse coaching and child coping and less child distress than did EMLA or typical care on an observational measure. EMLA did not result in increased child coping or decreased distress. In fact, the nurse coached more, and trends suggested that children coped more with typical care than with EMLA. Whereas participant ratings and heart rate did not differ among conditions, all 3 conditions demonstrated improvements over time with these measures. Satisfaction ratings suggested that children preferred the treatments to typical care, whereas the nurse appreciated aspects of each of the conditions. Finally, distraction was more economical than EMLA.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Local / therapeutic use*
  • Anxiety
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization*
  • Lidocaine / therapeutic use*
  • Lidocaine, Prilocaine Drug Combination
  • Male
  • Pain / prevention & control*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Prilocaine / therapeutic use*
  • Stress, Psychological


  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Lidocaine, Prilocaine Drug Combination
  • Prilocaine
  • Lidocaine