Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Pain In Children

Category: Child Care


We are discovering that children, even newborn infants, do experience pain when undergoing most medical procedures. Consequently, we are quicker now to give pain killers just prior to surgery and after surgery. This also includes circumcision which is usually done in the first days of life. There is a procedure to inject xylocaine, blocking the pudendal nerve on both sides, before doing the procedure. Many pediatricians use this today and it does seem to decrease crying and pain during and after the procedure significantly. There are some remote risks in doing this and the pro's and con's should be discussed with your physician. If your child has any type illness from a sore throat to an earache or a broken bone, ask your doctor for the appropriate pain reliever and don't be afraid to give it. This may simply be Tylenol. It also may be Tylenol with codeine, children's Advil or Pediaprophen or some other pain reliever depending on the severity of the pain and how long it is expected to last. Always ask your doctor for advice on the dosage and how long to continue it.

There are many things you can do to help a child in pain from nagging aches and hurts in daily life. One technique is to stimulate their other senses. That may be why colicky babies seem to do better when they hear the sound of a washing machine or any type of a humming noise or music. Singing to your child seems to help. Swaddling them and holding them close to you helps. Tender touches such as rubbing or stroking them helps. Regarding colic, check on their other needs too. They may be hungry, tired, cold and or have pain associated with teething or earache.

Sucking is a definite pain reliever and if your child is a finger sucker, encourage them to have at it. If they like pacifiers, let them have that. If it is an older child, offer them a popsicle. It may be a good thing to help them over the pain at the Health Unit or your doctor's office.

Rhythmic motion is another soother of pain. Try holding them in your arms and rocking them or rocking them in a swinging hammock or rocking chair. You might even try dancing with them. All kids enjoy motion especially when they are held close. If you feel, after appropriate interventions and medicines, that your child is continuing to have pain, discuss that with your doctor as well.

One new pain relief used in emergency rooms during sew-up of lacerations is the TAC therapy, which is a combination of medicines applied directly into the wound before suturing. This works as good as injected xylocaine and avoids the necessity of sticking the needle into the skin.

Interesting research suggests that sugar or sweets has a pain relieving effect. Perhaps this is through endorphin levels increasing in the brain. Studies done at Cornell Medical Center in New York showed that babies undergoing blood sticks cried less if they were given sugar water as opposed to plain water. Also babies being circumcised, given pacifiers dipped in sugar as opposed to regular pacifiers, showed less pain. Don't practice this sweet therapy on your child yet, however, since it is still experimental.

Discuss the pro's and con's with your doctor and dentist first. Certainly all this research on pain in children has opened my mind to some old remedies and some interesting new treatments.