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Using lidocaine to reduce needlestick pain

 

Some treatments, such as starting an IV or putting a needle in a port, are painful. Whenever possible, your child should have the option of reducing this pain as much as possible. One way to not feel the pain of needles is to numb the skin before a needle is put into the skin. Lidocaine cream (L·M·X4) and the J-Tip® are used to make the skin numb.

Lidocaine cream is absorbed only in the top layer of the skin. Your child will still feel the pressure of the needle going through the skin but not feel pain from the needle. Lidocaine cream can be used with some types of medicine injections. In this case, your child might still feel some pain from the medicine as it goes into the skin but should not feel pain from the needle. Lidocaine cream works best when you put it on the skin 30 to 60 minutes before the treatment or procedure takes place.

The J-Tip® is a needle-free device that uses high pressure gas to force the medicine (lidocaine) into the top layer of skin. The J-Tip® makes a loud “hissing” or “pop” noise, and it numbs the skin right away (within one (1) minute).

Lidocaine cream and the J-Tip® cannot be used by anyone who is allergic to lidocaine (xylocaine) or other local anesthetics (pain relievers).

How to use L·M·X 4™

Lidocaine cream works best when you put it on the skin 30 to 60 minutes before the treatment or procedure takes place.

  • Gather the needed supplies:
    • L·M·X 4™
    • Bio-occlusive dressing (clear plastic, protective dressing that is sticky on one side)
    • 1 nonsterile glove
  • Wash your hands with soap and water and dry well, or use an alcohol-based gel or foam hand cleaner.
  • The nurse will instruct you where to apply the cream. Do not put the lidocaine cream on skin that is broken, red, swollen, or sore. Do not put on skin that is currently being treated with radiation.
  • Follow any instructions given by the nurse or doctor regarding the amount of the cream to use on your child. It will be about ½ the tube.
  • Do not clean the skin with alcohol or acetone as this will remove the natural skin oils needed by the lidocaine cream to numb the skin. You may clean the area with mild soap and water.
  • Put on the glove and remove the cap from the lidocaine cream. Turn the cap around so that the point is facing toward the opening of the tube.
  • Turn the cap on the tube. The point on the cap will puncture the opening of the tube so that the cream can be squeezed out of it.
  • Squeeze out 1/2 of the tube onto the selected area of skin. Using a gloved finger, gently massage into the skin.

Applying the bio-occlusive dressing

Dressing to reduce needlestick pain
  • If your child might put his finger into the cream or bump the site while waiting for the procedure to begin, cover the lidocaine cream with the bio-occlusive dressing using these steps:
    • Open the package of the bio-occlusive dressing.
    • Remove the center cutout piece of paper from the dressing. Remove the paper from the back, which covers the sticky side of the dressing.
    • Center the sticky side of the dressing on the skin, covering the lidocaine cream. Do not spread out the cream. Smooth down the dressing carefully. Try not to touch the sticky edges of the dressing.
    • Remove the paper from the outer edges of the dressing, and seal the edges of the dressing onto the skin.
    • Be sure to allow the cream to remain in a thick layer.
    • Write the date and time on the dressing or on the label that is in the package. Put the label on the dressing. This will tell the nurse when enough time has passed for the medicine to numb the skin before the treatment.
  • If an IV is being started, we will ask you to put the cream in 2 places on the skin; ½ of the tube should be used on each place.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water.

After L·M·X 4™ is on the skin

  • Do not remove the dressing covering the lidocaine cream until right before the treatment is to begin. You may need to watch your child so he does not remove the dressing.
  • Do not leave the cream on your child’s skin for more than 2 hours.
  • Do not use heat or cold on the dressing because it might change the rate at which the cream is absorbed.
  • Just before the treatment, the nurse will remove the dressing and the lidocaine cream from the skin. Then, the skin will be cleaned as usual before the treatment.

Helpful hints

  • If you remove the dressing with the lidocaine cream on it, it should be folded in half so that the sticky side sticks to itself. Throw it away in the trash.
  • If you get some of the lidocaine cream on your skin, wash the skin with running water. Do not use soap or alcohol to remove the lidocaine cream as that may make it easier for your skin to absorb the medicine. If you have concerns about the lidocaine cream getting on your skin, call 901-595-3300, and ask to speak to the pharmacist or your child’s primary clinic doctor or nurse.
  • Store at room temperature (56–89 degrees F).
  • Throw away any unused cream once the date on the tube shows it has expired.

Special instructions

The effects of the lidocaine cream could last for as long as 90 minutes after it is removed since the medicine has already been absorbed into the skin. During this time, your child may describe a feeling of numbness to the area. He might not feel pain to the skin where the lidocaine cream was put if he scratches, rubs, or puts very hot or cold objects on that area. Watch that he does not hurt himself before the numbness wears off.

Keep used and unused lidocaine cream out of reach of children. If you use only half of the tube, you may save the rest for the next time your child needs it.

  • Do not put in the ears, eyes, mouth, or open wounds.
  • Throw away any lidocaine cream as soon as the medicine is no longer needed.
  • Do not let your child wash the area while the dressing is on.

Using the J-Tip®

If you did not use lidocaine cream on your child’s skin, you can request that the nurse use the J-Tip®. The J-Tip® contains the medicine, lidocaine, which numbs the skin like the lidocaine cream. It uses high-pressure gas to push the lidocaine into the top layer of skin. The gas does not come into contact with your child’s skin although he may feel a small gush of air.

How the J-Tip® works

  • Using the J-Tip® does not hurt most children but it does make a loud pop or hissing noise, much like opening a can of soda. Child Life can let your child listen to an audio recording of the sound.
  • Your child may have up to 3 doses of lidocaine per day, with no time delay between doses unless the prescriber agrees to more doses per day. These doses can be given as cream (L·M·X 4; ½ tube = 1 dose) or J-Tip®. The J-Tip® and L·M·X 4can be applied to the same site.
  • The J-Tip® should not be applied to skin that is broken, red, swollen, inflamed, or is currently being treated with radiation. It cannot be applied to the eye, ear, mucous membranes, or open wounds.
  • The J-Tip® should be applied no longer than 5 minutes before the needlestick. For best results, the nurse should wait 1 minute before performing the needlestick. 

Special instructions

The effects of the J-Tip® could last for as long as 90 minutes since the medicine has already been absorbed into the skin. During this time, your child may describe a feeling of numbness to the area. He might not feel pain to the skin where the J-Tip® was given if he scratches, rubs, or puts very hot or cold objects on that area. Watch that he does not hurt himself before the numbness wears off.

Side effects of lidocaine

All medicines have side effects. Some are mild and do not need to be reported to your doctor, such as:

  • Short-term blanching (whitening) of the skin where the lidocaine cream was placed. Later the blanching (whitening) may change to redness in the same area.
  • Swelling, itching, or rash of the area. These side effects should go away after one (1) or 2 hours. If they do not go away, tell your child’s doctor.

Side effects that need to be reported quickly to the doctor include the following:

  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Feeling nervous or confused
  • Feeling drowsy
  • Hearing a ringing noise
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Unexpected vomiting
  • Feelings of being hot, cold, or numb all over
  • Twitching or tremors          

If your child has any of these side effects, remove the lidocaine cream from the skin. Then call 901-595-3300 and ask to speak to your child’s doctor or nurse. After office hours, ask for the doctor on call. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0.

Rare side effects may require urgent medical care. If your child has any of these side effects, call 911. Take the lidocaine cream off the skin.

  • Breathing problems
  • Convulsions
  • Problems waking up

Other ways to reduce pain

In addition to L·M·X 4 and J-Tip®, there are other approaches to managing your child’s pain that do not involve medicine. 

Comfort positions are creative ways to help your child stay calm and still during a needle stick. Using comfort positions can help your child feel more in control and feel more successful. To learn more, read “Do You Know… Using Comfort Positions During Stressful Events.”

Relaxation can help relieve anxiety, reduce muscle tightness, and help with pain. Deep breathing and soothing music are examples of ways to help your child relax.

Distraction is a way your child can focus attention on something other than pain. Counting, singing, and reading are examples of way to help distract your child.

To learn more helpful ideas, read “Do You Know… What You Can Do to Help Your Child in Pain.”

Questions?

If you have questions or concerns about lidocaine cream or the J-Tip®, please talk to your child’s doctor or nurse. If you are inside the hospital, dial 0. In the local area, call 901-595-3300. If you are outside the Memphis area, dial toll-free 1-866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), and press 0 once you are connected.


 

This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

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