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Friday, 26 November, 1999, 06:02 GMT
Sugar relieves baby pain
Sugary liquid could be a painkiller for babies

Giving newborn babies a small amount of a sugary solution followed by a dummy to suck can actually act like a painkiller, according to French doctors.

They suggest that the sugar may activate natural painkillers within the body.

The result, reported in the British Medical Journal, could be a simple solution to soothe babies who have to undergo routine blood tests shortly after birth.

The team from Poissy Hospital studied 150 newborns and their response to pain when blood was taken from a vein.

Their test used an established rating scale while combines observation of the facial expression, limb movements and general wailing of the infant.

Some babies were given oral sugar, in the form of glucose and sucrose solutions, some in combination with the dummy, or pacifier, as it is known in the US.

They found that simply using the dummy alone was the most effective single analgesic, but a combination of sugar and dummy worked the best.

Sensory dominance

The researchers say it is not yet completely clear why this effect should be produced.

They believe that the dummies give pain relief because it diverts the baby's attention away from the needle prick.

The sensation elicited by sucking, they say, is so strong that it gives "sensory dominance" over all other sensations.

The sugary liquid, the doctors suggest, triggers the release of "endogenous opioids", which are the body's natural response to pain stimuli.

Other doctors have reported that a baby suckling on the mother will achieve the same level of analgesia as sucking on a dummy.

They described the sugary solution as a "simple, non-invasive and benign" way to reduce pain.

Minor procedures are common shortly after birth, and can include not only blood tests, but also heel lancing, spinal tap and even intramuscular injections, which can prove painful for the child.

Other studies have shown that infant pain may even be leaving psychological scars on children, particularly premature babies who have to undergo a great many more minor procedures such as needle insertion
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See also:
14 Aug 99 |  Health
Infant pain may have long-term effects
18 Nov 99 |  Health
New treatment may relieve chronic pain
18 Sep 99 |  Health
Cracking the code of child pain
02 Mar 99 |  Health
100 years of aspirin
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