Scared of shots? Cough!
By ANAHAD O’CONNOR
Published: January 25, 2010
THE FACTS Sometimes there are no words that can comfort a patient who fears an injection or the drawing of blood. But there may be one cheap and easy way to ease the needle’s sting.
In the medical literature, it is known as the cough trick. Patients cough moderately just before a shot and then once during it.
How this works is unclear. It could simply be a matter of distraction. Or, as a report in the journal BMJ pointed out, it may have something to do with a brief, cough-induced rise in blood pressure that reduces the perception of pain.
Whatever the mechanism, studies have found intriguing evidence. Two were conducted in 2004, including one three-week study in which doctors measured variables like pain intensity, hand withdrawal and palm sweating as subjects had intravenous needles inserted in their hands — on one occasion while coughing, and on another with no coughing. Coughing, they found, reduced the pain.
In another study, published this month in the journal Pediatrics, scientists at the Mayo Clinic tried the coughing trick on 68 children, ages 4 to 11, receiving immunizations. They found that it eased pain in Hispanic and white children, but not in black children — a finding they could not explain.
And like any method, it has its obvious flaws: coughing too vigorously, for example, could cause doctors to miss their mark.
THE BOTTOM LINE Studies suggest that a moderate cough during an injection may forestall pain.
Pretty neat. Might be a good trick to teach kids so they don't develop phobias.