Managing Your Baby's Reflux Pain

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Guide
  • The cover story in this week’s Newsweek is about pain management, so is today’s blog.

    In response to hearing about some parents’ hesitancy to treat their children’s pain due to reflux, I wrote a three-part blog about a baby’s right to treatment, especially at it is connected to treatment for pain. Part I was from a global perspective, Part II focused on the physical reasons to treat a child’s pain, and this third and final part considers the emotional side of effectively treating your child’s reflux pain.

    Crying is a primary means for young infants and children to communicate pain. Therefore, many babies who experience reflux use crying to let their caregivers know they are in pain (remember, not all who have reflux have pain, but most do). If the reflux goes untreated and the pain continues, both you and your child may be emotionally at risk.

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    As adults, when we don’t feel well physically, we often don’t feel like making emotional connections. So common sense tells us that if a baby is in constant pain, making emotional connections beyond what is needed to ease the pain may be more than he or she can handle on a day-to-day basis. And in our own son’s case, his constant crying did nothing to attract those wishing to snuggle up with a cuddly little bundle of joy.

    So what does this mean . . . first, a patient has a right to be treated for pain, and it doesn’t matter the patient’s age or ability to speak (think infant here). If there is pain, the patient has a right to be treated. Second, we may be hesitant to treat pain, because we don’t understand the messages we are receiving and how to process them. Finally, if you have a child in pain (regardless of the cause) and you don’t feel your health-care team is taking appropriate steps to treat it, find a professional who will.

    I hope these words about a baby’s right to live as pain free as possible have motivated you to take the next step in finding a physician who understands the importance of pain management. Understanding a patient’s right to live pain free is a topic we will be hearing more and more about. The American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics reports the wave of the future regarding pain management may be taking place in our courts:

    Decisions in two recent lawsuits suggest that proper pain management is beginning to evolve as an element of the standard of care required of health care providers. A North Carolina jury awarded $15 million in damages to the family of a patient whose dying days were made intolerable on account of pain mismanagement; and the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed a patient's right not only to have unwanted medical treatment discontinued but also to receive medication to manage his pain at the time. Moreover, in coming years, pain management practice guidelines, the Pain Relief Act of the Project on Legal Constraints on Access to Effective Pain Relief, and continued professional and public recognition of the importance of pain control likely will broaden liability exposure of health care providers who inappropriately manage pain.”



Published On: May 30, 2007