New study shows babies too feel pain much like adults

22 April 2015

Researchers from the Oxford University have, for the first time, shown that babies and even new-borns had the capacity to feel pain just as much as adults did, and that they were at times more sensitive to pains than adults according to a study published in the journal eLife.

In the '80s, doctors thought the brains of very young babies were not developed enough to interpret pains or feel them, and young babies underwent surgeries and other invasive procedures without first being given painkillers.

According to Dr Rebeccah Slater, of Oxford's department of Paediatrics, babies obviously could not tell about their experience of pain and it was difficult to infer pain from visual observations.

In fact, it had been argued that babies' brains were not developed enough for them to really ''feel'' pain, any reaction being just a reflex, she said. She added, the study provided the first really strong evidence that this was not the case.

Even up till recently, the NHS did not think it was necessary to give young babies painkillers before they had surgeries. According to an NHS guideline released in January 2015 infants did not need medications when babies were treated for a tongue-tie, a condition that occurred when the tongue of the infant was attached to the bottom of its mouth.

The study suggests that not only do babies feel pain, but their pain thresholds are were even lower than those of adults.

In the first study, the researchers showed in brain scans that infants' brains reacted in much the same way as adults' when given even mild pain.

The results suggest that it was possible to see pain 'happening' inside the infant brain - and it looked much like pain in adults.

A 1987 study suggested or the first time that doctors might have been wrong in their assumptions. Following the study anaesthetics were introduced for major operations.

However injections are being still given and intravenous drips inserted without pain relief, and many serious procedures carried out without anything to take away the child's pain.

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