What to Know About Numbing Creams for Your Child's Injections

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 05, 2022
4 min read

For many children, needles are the worst part of any doctor's visit. Numbing cream can minimize the pain of getting a shot, which may make your child less afraid of medical procedures over time. Before giving your child numbing cream for needles, you should familiarize yourself with how to use it properly and safely. 

Numbing cream, also called topical anesthetic, contains 4% lidocaine. When you put numbing cream on your child's skin, it numbs the area, which reduces the pain linked with injections. You don't need a prescription to buy numbing cream. 

Numbing cream can help reduce the pain of injections for your child. Although your child will feel much less pain from needles with numbing cream, they may still notice some sensations, such as pressure. You can use distraction techniques such as blowing bubbles, playing with toys, or singing in addition to the numbing cream for best results. 

Numbing cream lasts up to 1 hour and 30 minutes. It takes effect 30 minutes after you put it on, and can be left on for up to 1 hour. It will keep the area numb for 1 hour after you take it off. 

Here's how to apply numbing cream to your child's injection site: 

  • Wash and dry the skin on the area where your child will be injected. 
  • Make sure there are no open wounds, such as cuts or scratches. 
  • Use the pointed tip of the numbing cream tube cap to break the seal if it's a new tube.
  • Put a dime-sized spot of cream on the skin if your child weighs less than 22 pounds. Use a quarter-sized spot of cream if your child weighs 22 pounds or more.  
  • Cover the area with a clear bandage, but don't press down on the cream. The numbing cream works best in a thick layer. 
  • Don't let your child touch the area. 
  • If any numbing cream leaks out from the bandage, wipe it off. Avoid getting it in the eyes, nose, or mouth. 
  • Rinse your hands with water thoroughly.  

Numbing cream can be used for most injections, but you need to know where the injection or vaccine site is before applying it to your child’s skin. IVs are usually done on the top of the hand or inside the forearm. Vaccines are commonly given on the upper arm or the front side of the outer thigh. 

Numbing cream for needles is generally safe to use, but you should take some precautions before applying it to your child’s skin: 

  • Avoid numbing cream if your child has an allergy to lidocaine. 
  • Always follow directions as specified on the numbing cream’s packaging. 
  • Don't use numbing cream on large areas of your child's body.
  • Only use numbing cream for medical uses. 
  • Don't apply numbing cream more than once within two hours. 
  • Never put numbing cream on open wounds, such as cuts or scratches. 
  • Make sure your child doesn't swallow any numbing cream or get it in their eyes or nose. If this happens, rinse immediately and call their pediatrician. 
  • Keep the numbing cream tube out of your child's reach. 
  • Check the expiration date of the numbing cream before you use it.

Side effects of needle numbing cream can include: 

  • Temporary whitening of the skin, which is normal. 
  • Redness, itching, or rash. If your child develops these symptoms, wipe the cream off and call their pediatrician. 

Call 911 immediately if your child has any of the following symptoms of a severe allergic reaction

  • Swelling
  • Hives
  • Fever or chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

In addition to using numbing cream for needles, there are other ways you can help your child cope with a fear of injections: 

Deep breathing. Teach your child to take three to five deep breaths, inhaling through their nose and exhaling through their mouth. Tell them to take a deep breath in to make their belly big and a big breath out to bring it back down. You can use props like pinwheels or flowers to help guide them.

Music. Sing to your child or have them listen to calming music.

Imagery. Help your child picture their favorite activity or place. Talk to them about what they see, hear, smell, and feel. Encourage your child to stay in their happy place while they're getting the shot or injection.

Squeezing. Let your child squeeze a ball or press their hands together for 3 to 5 seconds, then release them. Once your child can do this, teach them to tighten and release other parts of their body. Have them start with their face and work their way down their body.