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Epidural Pain Control For Children


Epidural pain control is when pain medicine is put into the space around your child's spinal cord (epidural space). An epidural is a way to get pain medicine without repeated injections. An epidural can help decrease acute (short-term) pain from surgery or an accident. It can also be used to decrease long-term pain, like cancer pain.



  • Pain medicine: Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give your child his medicine. Pain medicine may make him drowsy. Do not let your child do activities like play on playground equipment or ride a bike while he is taking medicine for pain.
  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.

Care for your child's exit site:

Keep your child's exit site clean and covered. You may be told to change the bandage every day for the first 7 days. After that, change it every second day. Change the bandages any time they get wet or dirty.

Change your child's bandage as directed:

You will need 4 sterile cotton swabs, antibacterial solution, 2 sterile precut gauze pads, 1 sterile 4x4 gauze pad, and a roll of 1 inch wide tape.

  • Wash your hands: Use soap and water, and dry them completely.
  • Carefully remove the old bandage: Do not pull on the catheter.
  • Look at the exit site: Contact your child's primary healthcare provider if you see redness, swelling, drainage, or any other changes.
  • Clean the skin around the exit site: Use a cotton swab dipped in antibacterial solution. Clean your child's skin in a circle, starting at the catheter and moving out about 3 inches. Throw away the cotton swab. Repeat this step 2 more times.
  • Clean the catheter: Gently wipe the catheter with another cotton swab dipped in antibacterial solution. Start from the exit site and go up to the filter.
  • Cover the exit site with the sterile gauze pads: Gently put the catheter through the precut slit in the first gauze pad. Do not touch the side of the pad that will touch your child's skin. Turn the second precut gauze pad so the slit is turned in the opposite direction of the first pad. Gently put the catheter through the slit and put the gauze over the exit site.
  • Cover with the 4x4 gauze pad: Use the 4x4 gauze pad to cover the smaller precut gauze pads. Tape the edges of the larger gauze pad. Loop the catheter over the 4x4 gauze pad and tape the catheter in place.

Change the filter on the machine as directed:

You may be taught to change the filter and tubing for the medicine. You will need a new sterile filter, sterile cotton swab, antibacterial solution, and a roll of 1 inch wide tape. You will also need new tubing and new syringe of medicine.

  • Wash your hands: Use soap and water, and dry them completely.
  • Open the filter and injection cap package: Remove the cap from the new filter. Do not touch the end of the filter.
  • Connect the new filter to new tubing: The tubing should be attached to the new medicine syringe. Let the medicine flow through the filter.
  • Clean the area with antibacterial solution: Remove the tape from the old filter. Wipe the catheter tip (where the old filter is attached to the catheter) with a cotton swab dipped in antibacterial solution. Allow it to air dry.
  • Remove the old filter: Ask how or where to throw it away. Keep it away from children and pets.
  • Connect the new filter to the catheter: Tape the area where the filter hooks to the catheter to keep it from coming apart.

Bathe your child:

If your child is old enough, he can take a shower 1 week after the catheter has been placed. Do not put your child in a bath with water that covers the exit site. Carefully sponge bathe your child. Cover the catheter and exit site with a waterproof covering such as plastic food wrap. Tape around the edges of the wrap to keep it from leaking. Put on a clean, new bandage after he takes a shower or is bathed.

Contact your child's primary healthcare provider or pain specialist if:

  • You feel your child's pain is not being controlled by the medicine.
  • The skin around your child's incisions is red or swollen, or the incision has pus draining from it.
  • Your child has trouble moving, urinating, or having a bowel movement.
  • Your child has a new problem controlling his bladder or bowels.
  • Your child suddenly loses feeling around the anus or genitals.
  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing, is dizzy, has itchy skin or a rash.
  • Your child is weak, achy, has the chills, or a temperature over 100.4° F (38° C).
  • Your child does not wake up easily, has slurred speech, or sleeps a lot.
  • Your child's pupils stay small even in a darkened room.
  • Your child has a stiff neck or trouble thinking clearly.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.