A Healing Kiss

By Faith Burton

Does kissing a child’s “booboo” help in aiding pain relief? From the time I can remember, anytime I would smash my fingers, get a paper cut or inflict any type of injury to myself, my parents would kiss it and it would feel better. My aunts, grandmas, and friends to their kids all do the same. Even though it seems like a quick fix to stop the pain, does it actually stop pain?

In a journal study written by Scribd, Maternal kisses are not effective in alleviating minor childhood injuries (boo-boo’s): a randomized, controlled and blinded study : The Study of Maternal and Child Kissing (SMACK) Working Group, “97% of American mothers admitted to kissing at least one minor childhood injury in 2010. Furthermore, a survey of the American Pediatric Association found that 83% of paediatricians either ‘strongly agreed’ or ‘agreed’ with the statement ‘I encourage mothers to kiss the boo-boos (minor injuries) of their infants and toddlers”. In the study, kids undergo different tasks that may cause them to get a small non-threatening injury. They are then separated to categories, the first, “a maternal kiss of the injured body part”, second is a sham or non-maternal kiss to the child’s injury and third, no intervention at all. They are then scaled on their discomfort one-minute past and five-minutes past the infliction of injury. “In summary, maternal kissing of boo-boos is a common practice that appears to have no ability to reduce the distress of toddlers and may have significant untoward effects.”. Although they may have conducted a study, they admitted that it may not have been fair as they put the kids through controlled and induced accidents, as well as having the kids put their arms behind a screen to be kissed (the sham kiss) may of caused trama.

I believe that for a lot of people pain is created in the brain. When a child falls, and receives no injury but their head tells them they’re hurt, they don’t react the sensible way, no, they react with what their head is telling them “you just fell, you’re hurt, start crying, because you must be in pain”. Unlike an adult who would be able to tell the difference between being scared or being hurt, a child does not. In an article written by Molly Edmonds, published by howstuffworks, called “Is all pain mental”, Edmond researches the power of the placebo effect and how different parts of the brain react to injuries. After doing a study on toe stubbing and brain function, Edmond found that the thalamus was activated. (The thalamus is the part of the brain that controls relaying sensory information, and pain perception). Edmond states, “You don’t need to conduct brain imaging to realize that emotion can exacerbate pain — there’s a reason why we try to distract babies with our car keys when they fall. When we’re anxious or depressed about pain, the pain doesn’t go away. In fact, it often seems to get worse.”. She goes on further to say, “In one treatment under study, people were hooked to an fMRI machine and watched their brains under the influence of a pain stimulus. They learned to talk themselves down when pain levels began to spike, retraining their brain to keep pain in perspective.”

I believe most of the time children are perceiving their “injury” worse than it actually is. Because a child has yet to decipher out what is pain and what is perception, their thalamus is activated sending information to parts of the brain telling the child that they are in pain. When a mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, grandparent  or someone who is a familiar, and safe person embraces a child, kisses their injury and tells them that everything is alright, the child subconsciously makes the decision to trust what the person is saying. The brain then makes the connection that everything is alright, and pain lessens or stops completely.

Some people may think kissing a child’s injury is bogus or doesn’t help. From personal experience, it does help, if not physically, than mentally. When a child is hurting, and the person they love the most, and feel the safest around tells them everything is okay, they wouldn’t have a reason to not believe them. Giving comfort to your child in any way possible, even if it’s not “scientifically” proven, is something I believe should be done.


Sources :

Scribd, Maternal kisses are not effective in alleviating minor childhood injuries (boo-boo’s): a randomized, controlled and blinded study : The Study of Maternal and Child Kissing (SMACK) Working Group, Accessed May 18, 2018



Molly Edmonds “Is all pain mental”, published by howstuffworks, Accessed May 21, 2018