Impact of Traditional Versus Flavored Tongue Depressors on Pediatric Oropharynx Exam

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We compared patient-reported discomfort associated with oropharynx examination using traditional (unflavored) versus flavored tongue depressors among pediatric patients presenting to the emergency department in a single-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized trial using a convenience sample ages 3 to 12 years. Our primary outcome was patient discomfort. Secondary outcomes included provider perceptions of patient discomfort, provider-reported examination ease, and caregiver perceptions of patient discomfort. Of 96 recruited patients, 92 (95.8%) completed the study. Forty-six (50%) were randomized to a traditional tongue depressor. Mean patient-reported oropharynx examination discomfort scores were 2.3 cm (95% confidence interval = 1.4-3.2 cm) with traditional tongue depressors versus 1.9 cm (95% confidence interval = 1.0-2.8 cm) with flavored tongue depressors (P = .72). There were similarly no significant differences between the 2 arms with regard to any of the secondary outcomes. We conclude that the use of flavored tongue depressors does not appear to significantly alleviate discomfort associated with examination of the oropharynx in pediatric patients.

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