It is so heartbreaking to witness infant or toddler pain. When they are young and unable to communicate so well, it can be hard to know if child pain is serious or not.
This page will help you decide what to do when your infant or toddler has pain and will also give you help on pain in specific areas like tummy pain, headache, leg pain etc.
Pain can be a symptom of serious illness in your child, so it is important to try and understand your child's pain.
To find about medications for pain in babies and toddlers, click here.
For babies, the usual indication of pain is that they cry and that can be harder to interpret. Crying in an infant can be for so many different reasons that you need a strategy to follow to determine if the crying is due to pain or some other discomfort. See the crying page for more information on this.
For toddlers, it can be easier to pinpoint the pain. Young children may complain of a "sore tummy" or "sore head" so you have an idea of what the problem is.On the infant and toddler pain page, there are sections on:
The sections below cover child pain in various locations and have relevant links as well as indications of when to get medical help for infant or toddler pain.
Toddlers often complain of abdominal pain. It may be associated with other features including:
When the abdominal pain is located in the center of the abdomen around the umbilicus and doesn't cause any other symptoms, we call it non-specific abdominal pain (also known as functional abdominal pain) and it usually isn't that serious. This is a common complaint in toddler pain and although your toddler may briefly seem upset, the pain quickly disappears or, at least, is not severe enough to interfere with your toddler playing.
Another common cause of abdominal pain in children isconstipation. Even if you think your child is going to the toilet regularly, she may not be completely emptying her bowels. You may need to check after she's been to the toilet.
Just as children can get enlarged glands in the neckwith a viral infection, they can also get enlarged lymph glands around the outside of the gut. This is calledmesenteric adenitis and can cause tummy pain in children. There is no specific treatment - it gets better as your child gets over the infection. Paracetamol or Acetaminophen can be given for pain relief.
If your toddler looks pale with episodes of abdominal pain and has nausea and/or vomiting, then she may have abdominal migraine. Looking for trigger factors might help in preventing attacks - the migraine headache page has more information on looking for trigger factors.
Abdominal pain that occurs after eating gluten-containing foods, such as bread, may indicate celiac disease, which is gluten intolerance. Diagnosis is by small bowel biopsy but blood tests can strongly suggest its presence (particularly a high tTG test or a positive EMA test).
Toddler pain in the lower abdomen associated with frequent urination or pain on passing urine (we call this dysuria) can be a sign of a urinary tract infection. A urine test will confirm this and the treatment is antibiotics.
Abdominal pain due to surgical conditions, such as:
is often associated with vomiting.
See your doctor if your infant or toddler has abdominal pain and any of the following:
Yes, babies and toddlers can get headache and it can be a serious cause of infant and toddler pain. When a child has a headache, there is always the concern that there is some pressure in the brain causing the headache.
Conditions that can cause headache in infants and toddlers include:
Sometimes it can be hard to know if your infant or toddler has a headache - read about signs of headache in a toddler.
To read about the pros and cons of imaging with CT scan or MRI scan in a toddler with headaches, click here.
See your doctor if your infant or toddler has a headache and any of the following:
Children often complain of:
Pain in the neck can be because the lymph nodes in the neck are enlarged.
See your doctor if your child has head or neck pain and any of the following:
Toddlers often wake at night complaining of leg pain. Your toddler can be quite distressed. Massage can often help. If the next day, your toddler is running around and not complaining of pain or limping - this is probably what we refer to as growing pains.
Growing pains, despite the name, are not caused by growing though - read more.
Causes of leg pain in your toddler or infant that require medical attention include:
See your doctor if your infant or toddler pain is in the leg and any of the following:
Young children can get muscle and joint pains. Some viral infections cause aches and pains in the muscles and can cause a reactive arthritis (swelling of the joint) - this is usually transient and resolves by itself. The only treatment may be Ibuprofen to control the toddler pain and inflammation.
Young children can also get chronic arthritis - it is called juvenile idiopathic arthritis - the idiopathic means we don't know what causes it. There are many medications available to keep the arthritis under control and prevent any long-term damage to the joints in these children. Toddlers may not complain of much pain despite having active arthritis with swelling of the joint.
Features of juvenile idiopathic arthritis include:
Children can also get infection in the joint - septic arthritis. This makes the joint swollen and very painful to move. Antibiotics are required, initially intravenously. The joint also needs to be washed out surgically. In septic arthritis, infant or toddler pain is usually marked on movement of the joint.
There are also other childhood conditions that can cause joint pain including:
See your doctor if your child has muscle and joint pain and any of the following:
To go to the top of the Infant and Toddler Pain page, click here
To go to the Functional Abdominal Pain page, click here
To go to the Migraine headache page, click here
To return to the Home page, click here
Last reviewed 26 November 2012
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