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Pain Management In Children

What do I need to know about my child's pain?

Children feel and express pain in different ways. Your child may or may not be able to tell you he is in pain. Something that may be painful to one child may not be painful to other children. Your child's pain may be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Pain management is an important part of your child's care.

How will I know if my child is in pain?

If your child can talk, he may tell you where he hurts and how bad it is. If you have a baby or small child, you may need to watch them for signs of pain. You may notice the following behaviors:

  • Restlessness
  • High-pitched crying
  • Not moving or holding himself in a position to decrease pain
  • Pulls away or gets upset when he is touched
  • Touches, tugs, or rubs the part of his body that is painful
  • Eats less or not at all
  • Sleeps more or less than usual

What is a pain scale?

A pain scale is a tool used by your child's caregiver to help measure your child's pain. Your child's caregiver uses the pain scale together with examining your child. Your child's caregiver may use any of the following pain scales:

  • Faces pain scale: This scale consists of different faces, from happy (no pain) to sad (a lot of pain). Your child may be asked to point to the face that best shows how he feels.
  • Body outline tool: Your child will be asked to mark an X or color the painful area on a drawing of a child's body. Different colors can be used to measure his pain.
  • Colored analog scale: This scale assigns colors to mild, moderate, or severe pain. Your child will be asked to point to the color that shows how much pain he is in.
  • Oucher scale: This scale is used in children who can count. Your child will be asked to point to a number from 10 to 100 to show the amount of pain he is in.
  • Poker chip tool: Your child will be asked to pick the number of poker chips to show the level of his pain. One chip represents a small amount of pain and 4 chips is the most amount of pain.

What medicines are used to control pain?

  • Ibuprofen or acetaminophen: These medicines help decrease your child's pain. They can be bought without a doctor's order. Ask how much medicine is safe to give your child and how often to give it.
  • Narcotic analgesics: These medicines include codeine and morphine. They are used for moderate to severe pain.
  • Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA): This is a device that uses an electric pump to give your child pain medicine through an IV. The IV is placed in your child's vein, usually in his arm. Your child receives medicine by pushing a button. Ask your child's caregiver for more information about PCA.
  • Anesthetics: These may be injected in or around a nerve to make your child more comfortable. It works by blocking pain signals from the nerves.

What are the side effects of pain medicines?

  • Nausea, vomiting, or constipation
  • Itching
  • Pain in the lower abdomen or trouble urinating
  • Irregular heartbeat or seizures
  • Trouble breathing

Why is pain control important?

If pain is not treated, it can decrease your child's appetite and affect how well he sleeps. It may also decrease his energy and ability to do things. Pain may also change your child's mood and relationships with others. If pain is treated, your child will feel better and may heal more quickly.

How can I help manage my child's pain?

  • Give your child his pain medicine as directed: Follow instruction on how much and how often to give your child medicine.
  • Do not wait until your child's pain is severe: The medicine may not work as well at controlling the pain if you wait too long to give it. Tell your child's caregiver if your child's pain gets worse.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child is more sleepy than usual after he takes his medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child's skin becomes red, swollen, and itchy.
  • Your child suddenly has trouble breathing.
  • Your child is sad, depressed, or not able to cope with his pain or illness.
  • Your child's pain does not get better, or he has new pain.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

Further information

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