Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Babies do so feel pain

Can any mother doubt it—when they get that first immunization—or even before? That shriek of outrage and pain?

Yet, during circumcision and for other so-called minor procedures, pain control has been minimized—perhaps due to really bad anesthesia techniques following World War II that often killed infants. The idea arose that baby’s pain recognition centers weren’t fully developed.

Someone even pricked some babies with pins and said some didn’t react.

Well, World War II was a long time ago.

In 1998, some physicians got together to take a new look at this. Turns out, babies feel pain pretty darn well!

The drug co AstraZeneca is at the forefront of checking into this—they market EMLA, (Eutetic Mixture of Local Analgesics), a local painkiller that can be used on babies for spinal taps and chest tubes. For circumcision, another technique can be used called a ring block, with a chaser of Tylenol.

Nurses now also offer a pacifier soaked in sugar water and doctors warn against doing too many painful things to babies at the same time—even in a hospital setting. Hugs and swaddling also help.

If babies experience a lot of pain as infants, there is speculation that it can affect how they grow and develop—and react to pain later.

This turns out to be true in rats anyway.

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