The purpose of this handout is to explain when and how to use EMLA cream.
What is EMLA cream?
EMLA cream is a numbing cream that can
be placed on skin to provide pain relief. It is
often used to numb an area before placing an
IV, drawing blood, or giving injections.
When do I use EMLA and how long does
EMLA should be applied at least 1 hour
before a needle stick and longer before
painful procedures. EMLA cream will
begin to numb the site within 15 minutes
after it is applied however it will take at
least 60 minutes to provide pain relief. The
greatest pain relief is seen 2-3 hours after it
has been applied. A protective covering
helps keep the EMLA in place but is not
required. Before the procedure the EMLA
cream is removed. The numbness or pain
relief will last for 1 to 2 hours after the
cream is removed.
Be careful not to get the EMLA cream on
your hands. If you do, wash them right
away to be sure that your hands don’t
How do I apply EMLA cream?
EMLA should be applied to normal skin. Do
not apply to open areas or irritated skin. For
young children, it is best to have two people
help. One person holds the child; one
applies the EMLA.
When using EMLA cream before a blood
draw or IV placement
▪ Cover the backs of both hands and the
inside of both elbows for an IV
▪ Cover the inside of both elbows for
▪ First, look for large blue veins on the
backs of the hands and inside of the
▪ Cover the largest blue veins with a large
dollop of EMLA cream. Infants and
small children will need less cream than
When using it before an injection into the
skin or muscle
1. Cover the site with a large dollop of
EMLA cream. Spread a thick layer over
the skin surface; do not rub it in.
2. Take a transparent dressing and apply
over the EMLA cream so it is
3. Smooth down the dressing edges to
4. For persons who do not like the clear
dressings or are sensitive to them, you
can smooth a piece of plastic cling wrap
over the EMLA cream and secure it in
place with first-aid tape.. Be sure to tape
it down well to avoid leakage.
Frequently asked questions
▪ Why is the skin beneath the EMLA pale
or red? Some patients notice their skin
is a pale or red color. This is normal.
This effect is short term and may last for
1 to 2 hours. It will not interfere with
▪ What should I do if my child develops a
rash, swelling or itching at the site? If
this happens, remove the dressing and
wipe off the EMLA cream. Wash all the
sites with soap and water.
▪ Is there anything I should avoid when
using EMLA? Do not apply EMLA near
eyes or on open wounds.
▪ How old does my child need to be to
safely use EMLA? Do not use EMLA on
children under 1 month of age.
▪ Can I use EMLA if my child is getting a
heel stick? Studies do not show benefit
when using EMLA for heel sticks.
Therefore, it is not recommended for use
with heel sticks. Other options for heel
sticks include feeding just before or
during the poke, shushing in the child’s
ear, snuggling in the blanket, skin to skin
contact with parent and sucrose (high
concentrated sugar water) if available.
▪ Where should I store EMLA? EMLA
should be stored with other medicines.
Keep extra EMLA and all other
medicines out of reach of children.
▪ Once I place the EMLA on my child’s
skin, is there anything else I need to do?
Once the cream has been put on your
child, be sure the dressing stays in place
and your child does not get EMLA in the
eyes or mouth.
If you have further questions about EMLA,
please talk with your doctor, nurse or
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor.
This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because
each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team
when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 5/2017 University of
Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing.