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Opioids for Managing Pain in Babies

Children may experience pain after a medical procedure or an injury. However, sometimes the source of pain is not apparent. Stomach aches and headaches, for example, can occur any time even for seemingly no reason.

Navigation: What are Opioids?, Opioids for Managing Pain in Babies: Is it Beneficial or Harmful?, Opioids for Pain Relief: Does it Help with Acute and Chronic Pain?, Potential Benefits of Opioids for Managing Pain in Babies, Potential Risks of Opioids for Managing Acute Pain in Babies, How to Treat Your Child’s Pain Without Using Opioids, What is Opioid Use Disorder and What are its Effects?, Rehab Is Your Best Chance


All kids—including babies—can feel pain. If left untreated, it can cause them to become more sensitive to pain or even heal more slowly as they grow older. This is why you need to know when your child is in pain and how you can treat it.

Children may experience pain after a medical procedure or an injury. However, sometimes the source of pain is not apparent. Stomach aches and headaches, for example, can occur any time even for seemingly no reason.

If you want to know if your child is in pain, there are a few ways to tell. Crying is the main way they communicate this feeling. But very young children who cannot express themselves may act fussy, not eat well, be hard to soothe, be quieter than normal, or hold on to a body part that hurts.

On the other hand, older children will be better able to express themselves and tell you when they are in pain.

When it comes to treatment and pain control, there are several options. One that has always been controversial is the use of pain medication, particularly opioids, on pediatric patients. Here we will talk about opioid use for managing pain in babies. But before that, let’s define what opioids are.


What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes both prescription pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, as well as illegal drugs, such as heroin. Opioids work by attaching to specific receptors in the brain and blocking pain signals.

While opioid therapy can help treat persistent pain, these medications can also produce a sense of euphoria, which can lead to addiction and misuse.

Opioids are highly addictive and can cause a range of adverse effects, including respiratory depression, drowsiness, confusion, and constipation. Long-term opioid abuse can lead to tolerance, dependence, overdose, and other adverse events.

Because of their potential for misuse and addiction, opioids are tightly regulated and should only be used under the supervision of a healthcare provider.


Opioids for Managing Pain in Babies: Is it Beneficial or Harmful?

Sometimes babies are exposed to painful procedures during hospitalization. In some cases, they are given opioids for pain management.

However, the use of opioids for managing pain in babies is a controversial topic. While opioids can be effective in managing pain, they also come with significant risks and potential harm.

Studies have shown that opioids can be effective in managing pain in babies, particularly in the postoperative period. However, the use of opioids in babies can also lead to adverse effects such as respiratory depression, sedation, and decreased feeding. In addition, there is evidence that long-term use of opioids in babies can lead to developmental delays and addiction.

Even with randomized trials and international studies, the evidence is still uncertain about the effect of opioids on babies. Further studies need to be conducted on the matter.

Given the potential risks and harm associated with the use of opioids in babies, many healthcare professionals are exploring alternative methods for managing pain. Non-opioid medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, are often used to manage mild to moderate pain in babies. Non-pharmacological interventions such as kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact, and breastfeeding can also be effective in managing pain.

In conclusion, the use of opioids for managing pain in babies should be carefully considered and weighed against the potential risks and benefits. Healthcare professionals should explore alternative methods for managing pain and carefully monitor the use of opioids in babies to minimize the risk of harm.

Opioids for Pain Relief: Does it Help with Acute and Chronic Pain?

Generally speaking, opioids can be effective for relieving acute and chronic pain in adult patients, but they come with significant risks and potential side effects.

In cases of acute pain, such as after surgery or injury, opioids can be used to manage pain for a short period of time until the underlying cause of the pain is resolved. However, it is important to note that even short-term use of opioids can lead to physical dependence and addiction.

In cases of chronic pain, opioids may be prescribed as a last resort after other pain management options have been tried and failed. Opioids can provide relief for some people with chronic pain, but they are not effective for everyone and can have serious side effects, including addiction, constipation, nausea, and respiratory depression.

Healthcare providers should carefully assess the risks and benefits of using opioids for pain management and to consider alternative treatments such as physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and non-opioid pain medications. Additionally, patients who are prescribed opioids for pain should be closely monitored for signs of addiction or other adverse effects.

As for the use of opioids on children, we need to take a closer look at its potential benefits and risks.

Potential Benefits of Opioids for Managing Pain in Babies

There is a lack of consensus among medical professionals regarding the use of opioids for managing pain in babies. While opioids are effective at relieving pain, they come with a range of potential side effects and risks.

Opioids are powerful pain relievers that can provide significant relief for babies experiencing acute or chronic pain. Managing pain with opioids can improve a baby’s comfort level, which can lead to better sleep, reduced stress, and a faster recovery.

If pain is left unmanaged, it can have long-term effects on a baby’s development and well-being. Managing pain with opioids can potentially reduce the risk of these negative outcomes.

However, there are also significant risks associated with using opioids for pain management in babies, including respiratory depression, sedation, and addiction.

Some studies even suggest that long-term use of opioids in babies can lead to changes in brain development, which could have lasting effects. Now let’s take a look at the potential risks of using opioids on children.

Potential Risks of Opioids for Managing Acute Pain in Babies

The use of opioids for managing pain in babies carries several risks, and they are all significant. Parents should think carefully before using opioids on their kids. Consult with your doctor beforehand.

Here are some of the potential adverse effects of using opioids to manage pain in babies:

Respiratory depression: Opioids can cause breathing difficulties, which can be life-threatening, especially in premature babies or those with underlying respiratory conditions.

Neurological effects: Opioids can cause drowsiness, confusion, and other neurological effects, which can interfere with a baby’s ability to feed and maintain a normal sleep-wake cycle.

Addiction: Although rare, babies can develop a physical dependence on opioids if they are exposed to them for an extended period, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms if the medication is stopped abruptly.

Delayed development: Opioids can interfere with a baby’s physical and cognitive development, leading to delays in motor skills, language development, and other areas of development.

Overdose: Babies are at an increased risk of accidental overdose from opioids, as their small size and developing organ systems make them more susceptible to the effects of the medication.

Therefore, opioids should only be used in babies for severe pain that cannot be managed by other methods, and under the close supervision of a healthcare professional who is experienced in caring for infants. Non-opioid pain management strategies, such as non-pharmacological interventions, should be considered as first-line options for managing pain in babies whenever possible.

The decision to use opioids for pain management in babies should be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the baby’s specific needs, medical history, and the potential risks and benefits of the medication. It’s essential to work closely with a pediatrician or other medical professional when considering opioid use for managing pain in babies.

How to Treat Your Child’s Pain Without Using Opioids

Since opioids are too risky, parents may want to consider the alternatives for pain management. There are several ways to treat your child’s pain without using opioids.

For example, you can try other drugs that are not opioids for pain relief. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen can be effective in managing mild to moderate pain in children. These medications can be given orally or applied topically depending on the type of pain.

If you want to stay away from medications entirely, you may also look into physical therapy. If your child is experiencing pain due to an injury or a chronic condition, physical therapy can be an effective treatment option. A physical therapist can help your child learn exercises and stretches that can reduce pain and improve mobility.

Gentle massage can also help alleviate pain and promote relaxation. It can be especially effective for children who experience pain due to muscle tension or stress. Other techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and guided imagery can help your child relax and manage their pain.

Another way to relieve pain without using opioids is with the use of heat or cold therapy. Applying a heating pad or ice pack to the affected area can help reduce pain and swelling. Be sure to follow the instructions for the appropriate amount of time to avoid skin damage.

On top of these strategies, you can also use a bit of distraction. Engaging your child in activities that they enjoy, such as watching a movie, playing a game, or reading a book, can help distract them from their pain.

It is important to consult with your child’s healthcare provider before starting any pain management program. They can help you determine the best course of action for your child’s specific needs.

What is Opioid Use Disorder and What are its Effects?

Opioid use disorder (OUD) is a chronic medical condition characterized by the continued use of opioids despite significant negative consequences. This condition is also known as opioid addiction or simply drug addiction. An addicted individual will keep taking the drug even when they are already experiencing adverse health effects, legal difficulties, strained relationships, etc. While it is rare, it is possible for babies to have an OUD.

There are genetic and environmental risk factors for developing an opioid use disorder.

The effects of OUD can be severe and life-threatening. Some of the immediate effects of opioid use include sedation, euphoria, and pain relief. However, prolonged use can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems, such as respiratory depression, nausea, vomiting, constipation, cardiovascular problems, liver and kidney damage, hormonal imbalances, depression, anxiety, and cognitive impairment.

Those who have an opioid use disorder are also more likely to suffer from an opioid overdose.

An opioid overdose occurs when someone takes more opioid medication or drugs than their body can handle. Overdosing on opioids can be life-threatening and can cause serious health problems.

The effects of an opioid overdose can vary depending on the amount and type of drug taken, as well as the person’s tolerance and physical condition. Watch out for symptoms such as confusion, disorientation, shallow breathing, slow breathing, cold or clammy skin, bluish lips and nails, pinpoint pupils, and seizures.

In some cases, an opioid overdose can be fatal. If you suspect someone has overdosed on opioids, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. The overdose-reversal drug naloxone can be administered to help counteract the effects of the opioids and prevent further harm.

Effective treatment for OUD typically involves a combination of medications and behavioral therapies, such as counseling and support groups, to help individuals achieve and maintain recovery.

Look for an addiction treatment center near you today to learn more about the treatment options for opioid addiction.

Rehab is Your Best Chance

Treatment is an addicted individualʼs best option if they want to recover. Beating an addiction not only requires eliminating the physical dependence, but also addressing the behavioral factors that prevent them from wanting to get better. Simply quitting may not change the psychological aspect of addiction. Some people quit for a while, and then take drugs or alcohol again, only to overdose because they did not detox properly. Recovery involves changing the way the patient feels, thinks, and behaves.



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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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