Baby receiving a needle

Vaccination center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, December 17, 2010 Copyright Sanofi / Eric Larrayadieu (Interlinks Image) License

Going Viral with Children’s Pain Management

The social media campaign #ItDoesntHaveToHurt raises awareness for pediatric pain research.


If you’ve ever seen a child in pain, you know how devastating it can be.  The feeling that there’s nothing you can do.  But what if there was something you could do and you just didn’t know it?

When Prof. Christine Chambers of the Centre for Pediatric Pain Research at the IWK Health Centre and Dalhousie University had kids, she realized that online information about child pain management was woefully lacking.  In 2013 she made a video about managing needle pain in children.  Something as simple as blowing bubbles to encourage deep breaths can make all the difference!  But even though the video has thousands of views, getting those views was a lot harder than anticipated.

That’s the motivation behind “It Doesn’t Have To Hurt”, a social media campaign funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) spearheaded by Prof. Chambers.  With the help of popular parenting website, “It Doesn’t Have To Hurt” will take research evidence about assessing and managing children’s pain and quickly make it freely available to the people that can use it.  The campaign started Monday with a live panel discussion and tweet wall at the Halifax Central Library and reached over 6 million people!

There are a lot of misconceptions about children’s pain, Prof. Chambers mentions in her TedX talk.  You wouldn’t dream of performing surgery on a baby without pain management, right?  Yet this was something that was routinely done until the 80s.  Doctors thought babies simply didn’t feel pain yet.  It took a long time for that idea to change.  Even today, it takes about 17 years for research findings to translate into clinical practice.  But hopefully, with campaigns like #ItDoesntHaveToHurt, that time can be substantially reduced.

With flu shot season coming up, we could all use a few tips for pain management.  So follow the tweets, read the blog posts, watch the videos, and help fight children’s pain!

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Malgosia Pakulska is a PhD candidate in Professor Molly Shoichet’s lab at the University of Toronto.  She holds a BSc in Biochemistry and a BASc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Ottawa and feels that this combination of disciplines is ideally suited for regenerative medicine research, allowing her to understand both the underlying causes of a pathology and develop the tools needed to treat it.  When she is not in the lab, she is experimenting in the kitchen and blogging about it at Smart Cookie Bakes.

Malgosia Pakulska is a freelance science writer, speaker, and blogger. She completed her PhD in Professor Molly Shoichet’s lab studying drug delivery systems for spinal cord regeneration after injury. She is still passionate about research and wants to share that excitement with the public. When she is not in the lab, she is experimenting in the kitchen and blogging about it at Smart Cookie Bakes.