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Oral Sucrose for Pain Relief

What is oral sucrose?

Oral sucrose is a simple sugar solution given as a liquid by mouth. It can comfort infants and toddlers during brief medical procedures that could cause pain. Your child’s care team will place the oral sucrose either inside their cheek or on the tongue. Sucking on a pacifier may increase the effect of oral sucrose. But it will still work if your baby cannot use a pacifier.

Oral sucrose is a comfort measure. It can be used with other comfort measures such as holding and swaddling your child, position changes, and distraction. 

What to expect

A member of the care team will place 1 or 2 drops of oral sucrose solution on your child’s tongue or inside the cheek. They will do it 2 minutes before a painful procedure, during the procedure, and after the procedure, if needed.

Your child may be given a pacifier after the oral sucrose. Your child will not get more than 3 mLs (milliliters) during an 8-hour time frame.

Oral sucrose uses

Oral sucrose is used in children up to 2 years of age during painful or uncomfortable procedures such as:

  • Needlesticks including taking blood samples or giving injections (shots)
  • Starting an IV (intravenous) line
  • Removing an epidural
  • Dressing changes or removing tape from the skin
  • Lumbar punctures
  • Bone marrow aspiration or biopsy
  • Suctioning the nose or trach
  • Placing a urinary catheter
  • Chest tube insertion or removal
  • Inserting a nasogastric tube
  • Eye exams

Who should avoid oral sucrose

Oral sucrose is not right for your child if they have:

  • Problems digesting food or liquids
  • Scheduled lab tests or procedures that require fasting or NPO instructions (without food and water before a procedure)
  • A breathing tube or paralysis
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a disease that destroys part of the intestine
  • Recently had oral surgery
  • Grade 3 or 4 mucositis, which causes ulcers and pain in the mouth and digestive tract
  • Diabetes (high blood sugar)
  • Inotropic drug therapy for heart problems
  • Decreased gag reflex
  • A PET (positron emission tomography) scan

Key points

  • A care team member may give your infant or toddler oral sucrose for comfort and pain relief during medical procedures.
  • The oral sucrose is a liquid solution. It is given by placing 1-2 drops on the tongue or the inside of the cheek.
  • A pacifier can help oral sucrose be more effective. But it is not necessary.
  • Oral sucrose should be used along with other comfort methods like holding, swaddling, position changes, or distraction.

Reviewed: September 2022