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Moderate Sedation in Children


Moderate sedation

is medicine given during a procedure or treatment to help your child feel relaxed and calm. It may also be given to help decrease your child's movement during a procedure or treatment. The medicine may be given as a pill, shot, inhaled solution, or injection through an IV. Your child will be awake and able to follow directions. Moderate sedation can be used for procedures such as wound repair, fracture reduction, or a lumbar puncture.

How to prepare your child for moderate sedation:

Your child's healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare your child for moderate sedation. The provider may tell you not to give your child anything to eat or drink for 8 hours before moderate sedation. You can breastfeed your baby up until 4 hours before moderate sedation. You can give your child clear liquids up until 2 hours before moderate sedation. Tell your child's healthcare provider if he or she or she has any allergies, breathing problems, or heart problems. Bring another adult with you on the ride home to watch your child for problems after sedation. A second adult can ride with your child in the backseat while you drive.

What will happen during moderate sedation:

A healthcare provider may place an IV in your child's arm or hand. Your child's healthcare provider will give your child enough medicine to keep him or her relaxed and calm. Your child's heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing with be closely monitored.

What will happen after moderate sedation:

  • Healthcare providers will monitor your child until he or she is awake. Your child may need extra oxygen if his or her blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. Ask your child's healthcare provider before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing. As your child wakes up, he or she may cry or have difficulty getting comfortable. This is normal after moderate sedation. Speak in a quiet, calm voice to your child to help him or her relax. Your child may be able to go home after he or she is alert, can sit up, and talk appropriately for his or her age. This may take 1 to 2 hours after your child has received moderate sedation.
  • Your child may be sleepy and need frequent naps after he or she goes home. Your child may be restless until the medicine is completely out of his or her system. Your child may also have a headache or nausea, or your child may vomit. After sedation you may notice that your child has problems with short-term memory. Your child may feel weak or have trouble with his or her balance. These symptoms should go away in 24 hours or less.

Risks of moderate sedation:

  • Your child may get a headache or nausea from the medicine. Your child's skin may itch or his or her eyes may water. Your child may not get enough sedation, or it may wear off quickly. Your child may feel restless during the procedure or as he or she wakes up.
  • Too much medicine can cause deep sedation. The provider may have trouble waking your child and he or she may need medicine to help wake up. Your child's breathing may not be regular, or it may stop. Your child may need a ventilator to help him or her breathe. Your child's risk for problems with sedation is higher if he or she has a heart or lung problem, a head injury, or a problem with development.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child cannot be woken.
  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has a severe headache or dizziness, or cries constantly.
  • Your child's heart is beating faster than usual.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever or chills.
  • Your child has nausea or is vomiting for longer than 8 hours after the procedure.
  • Your child's skin is itchy, swollen, or he or she has a rash.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care for your child:

  • Watch your child closely for the next 24 hours. Do not leave your child alone in the bath or shower. Do not let your child cook, use appliances, or play outside unless you are watching him or her.
  • Limit your child's activity to prevent accidents. Have your child lie on the couch or rest quietly. Walk with your child to the bathroom. Do not let your child play sports or do vigorous activity. Do not let your child ride a bike, swim, play on swing sets, or play on jungle gyms. Your child can return to his or her normal activities in 24 hours.
  • Feed your child slowly to prevent nausea and vomiting. If your child is younger than 1 year, feed him or her half of the usual feeding 1 hour after sedation. Wait 2 hours after sedation to feed your older child. Start with clear liquids such as cranberry juice or ginger-ale. If your child does not vomit after clear liquids, start giving your child his or her usual foods. Make sure your child drinks plenty of liquids when he or she can drink without vomiting. Liquids help flush the medicine out of his or her body. Ask how much liquid to give your child and which liquids are best for him or her.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Moderate Sedation in Children (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

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