Treating Pain Conditions In Children And Alternative Therapies
In a just and fair world, children should not feel or live with pain, but, our world is neither just nor fair. Children are exposed to the same toxicity levels in the air adults breathe, the water adults drink, and the food adults eat, but, children’s bodies are not yet mature enough to handle that kind of exposure to toxicity.
The immune system of children is still developing, rendering them vulnerable to disease. The numbers of children dealing with life-threatening diseases, such as, cancer and other traditionally “adult” diseases related to obesity is increasing. For these reasons, more and more children are living with medical conditions and diseases that bring about chronic pain.
Also, for unknown or undetermined causes, the reported cases of autism are on the rise. Autism is a spectrum disorder, this means that not all children who experience autism will have the same symptoms or experience the same sensory perceptions.
It has been reported that there are children with autism who experience pain when exposed to sensory stimulation that are considered “normal” or “pleasurable” by children without autism.
Tickling, hugging, bright lights and sudden loud noises like blaring horns of ambulances often bring sensory pain to children with autism. This is also one cause for chronic pain in children.
How To Detect Pain In Children
Children are not always able to talk, or to find the words that adults understand to describe what they feel. If you are a parent and your child is irritable, or if your child cries when a part of his or her body is touched that should be a sign that the child may be experiencing pain.
There are also behavioral signs that children are in pain: they cry a lot, they favor one side of the body when they walk, sit or lie down. They hold that part of the body that hurts and “protect” it even from mommy.
At the emergency room, to confirm the experience of pain, a nurse will observe the child to look for these signs: the child may be sweating a lot; a child may be pale, their blood pressure may rise in response to the pain.
It is a bit easier if the child can already talk because the child can say which part hurts or how it hurts (there are different kinds of pain sensation). A child can use a number scale to determine the amount and intensity of pain he is feeling.
A child may be taught how to distinguish between states of pain and therefore, the remedies for the pain can be adjusted according to the amount of pain or the intensity of pain the child is experiencing.
Common Medication Prescribed To Children In Pain
Depending upon the source or cause of pain, pain relievers are the first and fastest means of relieving a child’s pain. Over-the-counter drugs such as paracetamol have been proven and tested for over 100 years.
Ibuprofen, which, is an anti-inflammatory medicine is also recommended and prescribed. For post-operative pain (as when the child has had surgery or a painful procedure like a biopsy), opioids are prescribed.
When children are living with pain (their pain is persistent for three months and beyond) that hampers their ability to engage in activities of daily living, children are prescribed antiepileptic or antidepressant drugs.
These kinds of medication are mood-altering drugs. They alter the mood by altering the chemical response in the brain. It so happens that the same hormones or chemicals in the brain that are responsible for mood changes are also responsible for the sensory perception of pain. Thus, antiepileptic and antidepressant drugs may also be prescribed for pain symptoms.
Side Effects And Dangers Of Pain Medication For Children
These medications have been proven to be effective in treating pain, but, they have also been proven to have side effects. Remember that children’s bodies are still developing. The brains of infants less than two years of age are still establishing neural connections and circuitry. If a child’s brain is bombarded with pharmacological preparations, these may affect a child’s proper development and later functioning.
Medicines may also have unwanted side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, palpitations, sleepiness, headaches, dizziness which adults experience. These will interfere with a child’s activities such as playing, socializing and schooling. All these activities are necessary for the development of a child’s potential.
There is also the danger that the dosage for a child will be inadequate to relieve the pain, or that the dosage is over and above what is necessary to relieve it. A wrong dosage in adults may result in uncomfortable side effects in adults but may be potentially life-threatening in children, especially children who have medical conditions.
There is also the danger of developing an addiction or dependency upon a drug. Just as in most adults, our bodies crave pleasure and in cases where a child or an adult lives with chronic pain, the absence of pain is pleasure in itself. Thus, the instinct to always numb pain or always numb oneself from sensing pain is always a present danger.
What is more alarming is that when a drug is habit-forming, it means that the body accommodates the altered chemical make-up of the brain and so, when a similar pain is experienced, it may require higher doses to alleviate the same amount or intensity of pain.
Lifestyle Changes And Alternative Medicine
Children who are living with medical conditions that bring about chronic pain are almost always recommended to change lifestyles. This means that a child will be asked to forego the usual diet of colas, chips, hotdogs and candy. The child will have to eat a diet that is rich in fruits and vegetables that naturally help to counteract pain.
, nuts, fish, whole grains and other foods rich in natural vitamins such as Vitamin B, D, potassium and Omega-3 fatty acids can help modify the pain experienced by a child.
Herbs that are natural pain relievers such as lavender, chamomile, peppermint, and yes, even medical marijuana, are increasingly being used in children’s drink and food to minimize pain.
The medical and research community has not yet made definite recommendations about the use of medical marijuana in any form or in any manner of administration. It is still debated and studied.
A child will also be made to go into therapy to strengthen muscles and joints that experience pain. Swimming is a good exercise for children, especially in a heated pool. The water will hold the child’s weight and it is therapy disguised as “play.”
Yoga has also been recommended or older children. It increases muscle tone and strength. It involves deep breathing which brings oxygen to muscles and organs and that also relieves the perception of pain.
Moderate exercise increases the secretion of endorphins which are the “feel good” hormones. A release of this hormone diverts the attention from pain.
Adequate rest and sleep is also recommended for children whose sleep patterns are disrupted by the experience of pain. Massage can help children feel drowsy enough to sleep.
The use of acupressure and acupuncture to relieve pain in children is not yet recommended. It is still undergoing serious study. Even in China, where the practice of acupuncture and acupressure originated, these are used sparingly for children.
What alternative remedies can do for relieving children’s pain is that these make children feel “better”. That is, they perceive themselves feeling “better”. They perceive and self-report a lessening of the discomfort of pain, they are able to play more and enjoy activities more.
Medicating children is risky. It is even riskier when we consider that children are still growing and developing. The generation of children who experiencing childhood cancers are only now becoming adults and the medical community is still discovering the effects of pain medication upon these children as they turn into adults.