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Children's Health

Symptoms of Pain in Children

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It can be a challenge to recognize the symptoms of pain in children. Is he really hurting, or am I overreacting? Does she really have headaches when the doctor can't find anything wrong?

Pain is a highly individual and complex experience. What follows is the advice of experts for reading symptoms of pain in your child.

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Symptoms of Pain in Babies

Unlike with older children, crying isn't always a reliable pain indicator in babies. That's because crying is a baby's way of expressing a whole host of needs. Here are signs that a baby may be in pain.

Changes in crying patterns. A baby's distressed cry sometimes, but not always, sounds different from ordinary crying. Changes in your baby's behavior can also be a tip-off. For example, crying that can't be soothed with a bottle, diaper change, or cuddling could signal pain. Also, a calm baby who becomes unusually fussy could be in pain.

Crying while nursing. Sucking can create pressure in the ears. The baby who cries while nursing could very well have a painful ear infection.

Prolonged, intense crying, often at the same time each day. This behavior is common with colic, which occurs in infants due to abdominal pain. It often starts at the age of 2 weeks, peaks at 6 weeks, and then gradually declines.

Crying and drawing the legs up to the abdomen. Your baby could have colic or a serious medical condition.

Withdrawing. Chronic pain can sap a baby's energy, causing him or her to become still, quiet, and to avoid eye contact.

Symptoms of Pain in Toddlers

Fortunately, at this age, children in pain can talk, if only to say, "Owie, owie, owie!" They will often also clutch the part that hurts. Pulling or rubbing the ear is common in toddlers and although it can sometimes indicate ear pain, it is more often associated with teething or simply habitual. Suspect an ear infection if your child has had cold symptoms or a fever and begins to tug at the ear suddenly.

Symptoms of Pain in Children and Adolescents

Chronic or recurrent pain is common in children and adolescents. Research has shown that as many as 30% to 40% complain of pain at least once a week. Consult your child's health care provider to determine the cause and to get treatment.

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