Pain relief for babies & children
Everyday childhood events such as teething, vaccinations, illnesses such as coughs and colds, or bumps and bruises can all cause pain for babies and children. Here are some options to minimise their discomfort.
How can I tell if they're in pain?
Older children will often tell you themselves. Younger children may find it hard to explain, or may not be talking at all. Signs to look for include:
• Your baby or child may seem listless, irritable or distracted
• They may have lost their appetite
• Small babies may make a crying sound unlike their usual cry and refuse to be consoled
• They may have a temperature. Pain and fever often go together in babies and children
• Teething babies may have redness in their cheek on the side where the tooth is coming through, and chew on their hands or toys
• Children with an earache may tug or pull at their ear
How can I help relieve their pain?
You can help your baby or child feel more comfortable by keeping their environment calm and quiet, giving them plenty of fluids to drink, and ensuring they get lots of rest. Chewing a teething ring can help relieve teething pain.
You can also consider giving them a pain relief medicine. Paracetamol is often used for relieving pain and fever in children. It's available as a syrup for younger children, and as meltlets (which dissolve on the tongue) or tablets, for older children. Paracetamol usually starts to work within one hour, and the effects typically last for four to six hours.
Paracetamol can be given to babies over three months old – or two months to reduce a fever after a vaccination. Keep in mind that the dose varies depending on their weight and age. The patient information leaflet provided in your medicine contains detailed guidance on how much to give, but talk to your pharmacist if you're not sure.
Ibuprofen syrup is also often used for relieving pain and fever in children. Ibuprofen can be given to babies over three months old as long as they weigh at least 5kg (11lb). The dose varies depending on their weight and age. The patient information leaflet supplied with the medicine should contain detailed guidance on how much to give, but ask your pharmacist if you're unsure.
For teething babies over two months old, you can consider using a specifically formulated teething gel. This is applied directly to the gums and usually contains an anaesthetic ingredient to help numb soreness.
Check the patient information leaflet for how much to use and how often to apply it. If you're unsure, your pharmacist will be able to advise you.
Can I give my baby or child more than one pain relieving medicine at a time?
You shouldn't give your baby or child more than one pain relieving medicine at a time unless your doctor tells you to.
What should I do if I give too much medicine?
If you've accidentally given your baby or child too much medicine, like paracetamol or ibuprofen, go to your nearest Accident and Emergency department straight away.
When should I seek medical advice?
You should seek medical advice on behalf of your child at once if:
• Their temperature is above 39°C, or 38°C if they're under three months
• They have a temperature which does not come down with paracetamol or ibuprofen
• They're struggling for breath and their stomach is 'sucking in' under their ribs
• They're making a hoarse 'throaty' noise when breathing
• Their skin is pale, blotchy, blue or grey
• They have a seizure or a convulsion for the first time
• Their nappies are drier than usual (or they're urinating less than usual)
• They have a rash anywhere on their body that doesn't fade when pressed with a glass
• They have a head injury – especially if they lost consciousness, even for a few moments
• You're worried. Medical professionals always prefer to see a baby or child whose condition is not serious rather than miss seeing a baby or child who needs attention