Pain in babies and young children: how to deal with it?

What types of pain are there?

” The pains is both a emotion and a sensation, which can also be present without any recognizable cause (injury, organ damage, etc.),” the Sparadrap association for hospitalized sick children immediately recalls. Do you feel uncomfortable when your child is in pain? Don’t know how to alleviate it?

Know that we differ three kinds of pain :

  • that care related,
  • that due to illness,
  • and the that goes over time (Chronic pain).

The pain caused by nursing

Of simple vaccine to the lumbar puncture passage through blood test or the relocation stitches : Certain invasive procedures can be painful for babies and young children. like dr Elizabeth Walter-Nicolet states:

“A painful gesture in an adult becomes even more so in a child who does not understand the cause of that pain. »

However, this pain is not inevitable and must be prevented and treated: MEOPA gas, anesthetic cream, etc.

The acute pain of illness

” The sharp pain is the body warning signal to signal that something is wrong, says Dr. Elizabeth Walter-Nicolet. For example: If the child a ear infection, appendicitis or that he broke his arm in the fall. Warning: pain does not always mean serious. Some pain is in fact caused by benign diseases (migraineotitis), when other severe pathologies do not necessarily hurt (diabetes, kidney failureEtc.).

chronic pain

the chronic pain is a pain that lasts more than three months. “It’s less common in young children. It’s more likely to be found in adults and adolescents,” says Dr. Walter Nicolet.

Every child is different when it comes to pain : If some express it by crying or screaming, others, on the contrary, will remain depressed. “Sometimes a child can be in so much pain that it causes pain unable to react. We then risk being wrong and believing that he is simply sad, calm or even wise! However, if he gets painkillers, he will start talking, moving, playing and being interested in others,” confirms the Sparadrap association.

Even newborns and babies feel pain and remember it. In addition, it is important not trivializing a medical procedure and to take all necessary precautions to relieve painful sensations.

Unlike a child, who can tell where the pain is, a baby cannot talk about his pain. Parents should therefore be very attentive behavior changes. “It’s important to see how it behaves,” confirms Dr. Walter Nicolet. Several criteria such as his interactions with the environment, his facial expression or his position provide information about his pain. »

  • The look on his face : Check if the baby’s face is relaxed or, on the contrary, tense, if he has tense eyelids, wrinkled eyebrows or an open mouth. “The nasolabial fold can also be emphasized,” the pediatrician explains.
  • Vocal or verbal expression : Is the child crying? calls ? moans or says he’s in pain?
  • motor skills : Check if the baby is calm or restless. “A child who is too quiet has to attract attention,” says Dr. Walter Nicolet. A child who moves well! »
  • The position : Does your child adopt an unusual posture? Analgesic? Does he protect himself or does he remain silent?
  • Interactions with its environment : Does your child communicate with its environment? Can he be comforted? Is he interested in games?

Other criteria like the sleep can also be revealing: for example, a child who sleeps too much or, on the contrary, no longer sleeps at all.

To the Measure a child’s pain The medical teams use a rating grid. ” net Ebendol makes it possible to assess pain based on behavioral criteria, explains the specialist. Tick ​​a list of signs that can predict pain: when the child grimaces, cry Where from on the contrary, if he is too calm ; if he adopts frozen/prone position or that he plays normally; when he comforts himself in the arms of a relative etc. The result of this observation gives us a ‘pain score’ which then helps us to adjust the treatment. »

the pain therapy depends on its origin: whether it is caused by care or caused by a pathology.

Treat acute pain

“You have to treat the cause of the pain,” confirms Dr. Walter Nicolet. For example, in the event of a broken arm, we will immobilize the limb and Painkiller appropriate. » The medical teams have a fairly wide therapeutic arsenal ranging from paracetamol to the morphine passage through Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve moderate to severe pain.

Avoid treatment-related pain

Blood test, stitches, vaccination: Today it is possible causes pain through treatment or investigation must be taken care of. “The baby cannot understand that if we vaccinate him or do a blood test, it is for his own good. He retains only the painful sensation. However, this can be slightly warned with an anesthetic cream, says Dr. Walter Nicolet. Since this doesn’t work as well for infants under three months, you can use a non-pharmacological agents how breastfeeding. breastfeeding at least two minutes before the act actually reduces the pain. Likewise, we know that the administration of a Sugar solution combined with sucking a pacifier two minutes before a vaccine relieves pain in children under six months. »

What painkillers are indicated for children?

your child suffers from otitis ? He was straight tonsil surgery ? Today everyone range of painkillers relieves pain, from moderate to severe. “While the treatment of pain is still very heterogeneous in both community medicine and hospitals, there are solutions to alleviate it,” emphasizes Dr. Walter Nicolet. What is important is that the analgesic is adjusted to the age of the child and the cause and intensity of the pain. »


It is given to babies and children in case of mild to moderate pain. “Prefer the oral route over suppositories, which are much less effective,” advises the pediatrician.


This analgesic is used in particular at inflammatory pain. ” He is contraindicated in infants under three months, warns the expert. But can be prescribed later moderate to severe acute pain. You should know that certain analgesics, when they do not work on their own, can be combined with each other if prescribed by a doctor. »

The pediatrician warns the parents against this Risk of overdose.

Taking a painkiller – paracetamol, ibuprofen – is not insignificant. If your child does not feel better with the treatment, it is important not to increase the dose, but to find out why it is not working.

Morphine and morphine derivatives

In case of strong pain (postoperative aftercare etc.), morphine derivatives – Tramadol – ou de la morphine can also be given to babies and children. “Morphine is not reserved for serious situations. For example, it can be given in the recovery room after a tonsillectomy,” confirms the Sparadrap association.

What are non-drug solutions?

In addition to painkillers, many non-drugs now make it possible to limit the sensitivity of babies and small children to pain. ” The complementarity of the means of combating pain is essential “Recalls Dr. Elisabeth Walter-Nicolet.


Settle down well – for example in the arms of a parent – calm the child and relax him. “In young children, breastfeeding or even contact with the mother’s skin induces a state of well-being that can reduce or even block the painful sensation,” assures the pediatrician.

La distraction

Distract a child – for example blowing bubbles or playing with them – is an interesting solution to pain. In the same way : to tell a story, listen to musicplaying a game, reading are effective ways to make him “forget” his pain.

music therapy

A 2013 Canadian study (source 1) shows the benefit of using it music therapy in pediatric emergency departments. “Listening to music, just during treatment, is good and reduces pain scores during venipuncture: an easy implementation! “ confirm the experts of Pédiadol.


massage can help to relieve pain: for example in colic in babies. “It’s the goal saturate pain receptors and to drown the painful signals in other more positive ones,” explains Dr. Walter Nicolet.


After all, they are mainly used in hospitals in the painful care of babies and children MEOPA (Laughing Gas) is an anxiolytic and analgesic gas that is very effective in relieving pain. It can also be used for dental care.

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