The cold pressor task: is it an ethically acceptable pain research method in children?

J Pediatr Psychol. 2011 Nov-Dec;36(10):1071-81. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsq092. Epub 2010 Oct 5.


Objectives: The cold pressor task (CPT) is an experimental method of inducing pain. Ethical concerns have been raised regarding the nontherapeutic induction of pain in children. The objectives of this study were to describe the ethical challenges and acceptability of the CPT from the perspective of researchers, children and parents.

Methods: Study 1:16 researchers completed a survey regarding their experiences obtaining ethical approval and use of the CPT in pediatric research. Study 2: 175 children and 194 parents answered questions about their experiences participating in studies that used the CPT.

Results: Full ethics board review was generally required. Adverse events were rare and transient. The majority of researchers, children, and parents reported positive experiences with the CPT.

Conclusions: The CPT is judged by researchers, children, and parents to be an acceptable research method. The CPT can be used ethically in pediatric research with appropriate study safeguards.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Data Collection
  • Ethics, Research*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pain Measurement / ethics*
  • Parents
  • Research Design*
  • Research Subjects*