Pain, much like fever, is not a disease, but a symptom alerting one to an underlying problem. That’s why you should be guided by common sense and the presence of additional symptoms like fever, when assessing the need for medical attention for your child’s pain.
Pain may be caused by many factors and may be experienced as sharp, burning, dull, constant, intermittent, pressure or even needling. Take note of the type, location and severity of the pain in order to accurately describe it to the doctor, should this become necessary. Also note that:
- An acute condition like ear, chest or bladder infection, will usually be accompanied by severe pain in the relevant region
- Inflammation, which is associated with infection but not necessarily caused by a micro-organism, involves redness and swelling, causing pain
- Pain is a protection mechanism of the body, making one avoid certain actions in order not to aggravate the underlying condition, for instance a strain, sprain or swelling
- Some ‘normal’ body processes are also accompanied by pain, like teething in children
- Headaches have various causes, some physical and some emotional; some serious and some not
Five important pain pointers
- Pain thresholds differ from child to child – comparisons are odious!
- Parents soon know what is ‘normal’ and what is of concern in their child – use this knowledge
- Help children to become resilient about pain but also monitor signs carefully for underlying problems
- Babies and toddlers cannot describe their pain, but observing their body language carefully will help parents pick up on serious problems
- Take changes to familiar discomfort patterns seriously as these give a good idea of the type and severity of a problem
Ten pain-relieving tips for parents
- Get your child to rest more – read to them or involve them in quiet play
- Keep your child at home if pain is due to illness
- Distract your child with new toys or games (these don’t have to be costly!)
- For teething pain, apply counter pressure to and rub the gums with a clean finger
- Elevate injured limbs to reduce swelling
- Warm baths relieve pain for many children
- Cool compresses often ease pain from swelling
- Massaging a painful area is useful for some
- Movement and rocking can soothe pain temporarily
- If pain is ‘emotional’ in nature, try and find out what is worrying your child or see a counsellor
Is it time for pain medication?
Always give the minimum dose of pain-relieving medication so as not to mask underlying problems, but also:
- Know that giving pain medication allows a child’s body to rest and spontaneous recovery processes to start
- Never give over-the-counter pain medication for longer than 2-3 days without medical supervision
- Never give bigger doses of pain medication than indicated on the package
This blog provides a guide to help educate parents about pain in children but should you be at all concerned about your child’s fever or discomfort, or if you do not see prompt improvement from the advice given, take them to be evaluated by your doctor as soon as possible.