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Television is just what doctor ordered

September 04, 2006|From The Washington Post

When it comes to comforting a child during a painful medical procedure, television apparently does better than Mom, according to a new study.

A team of Italian researchers randomly divided 69 children ages 7 to 12 into three groups, then took blood samples with a needle. One-third of the children were not distracted, one-third were distracted by their mothers, and one-third watched cartoons on television.

The children who were allowed to watch television during the procedure reported experiencing the least pain.

The pain scores of those who were not distracted were about three times as high as those recorded by children who watched cartoons on television, the researchers found.

"TV watching was more effective than active distraction," they wrote in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Being absorbed in television may even release pain-reducing hormones in children, speculated the study's lead author, Carlo Bellieni, a father of three and a neonatologist and pediatrician.

It could be that parental comfort has the reverse effect, convincing children that "something must really be bad" if they need to be soothed, said Brenda McClain, director of pediatric pain management services at Yale University.

But no one suggests deserting a child under a needle.

"Children who are experiencing pain in healthcare settings of course need the supportive presence of a parent to help them cope effectively," they wrote. "The children will recall that they were not left alone in a stressful occasion."

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