A child’s pain can range from mild to severe because of a cut from a minor fall, a sore throat, or a procedure at the hospital.
It is important to remember that not all children feel pain the same way.
It is important to remember that not all children feel pain the same way. Your child’s response to pain will depend on many factors such as:
- Age and developmental level
- Past experiences with pain
- Feelings such as anxiety or fatigue
- Methods of coping
- General health
- Parents’ and/or caregivers’ response
Here are several pain management techniques for children that you can use as a caregiver or parent to keep your child comfortable.
Managing Children’s Pain with Medication
If you choose to manage pain with medication it is very important to follow the directions given to you by the doctor, pharmacist, and healthcare team.
There are three additional things to keep in mind as your child’s caregiver when administering medicine to a child in pain:
- Timing: Do not wait until your child is in a lot of pain before you give medicine. If you wait too long, it may take longer for the pain to go away.
- Dosage: The right dose of pain medicine for a child is the dose that reduces the pain with the fewest side effects. The amount of medicine to give depends on your child’s age and weight. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure.
- Records: Keep an accurate record of any pain medication you give your child, including the dosage, time given, and any side effects
There are several types of over the counter and prescription pain management drugs for children that can be used to help alleviate your child’s discomfort, whether the pain is mild or severe.
Mild Pain Management Medications for Kids
Some common examples used to manage mild pain in children include:
- Acetaminophen: Common brand names include Tylenol or Tempra.
- Ibuprofen: Common brand names are Advil and Motrin.
- Topical Anesthetic (cream): Examples includes EMLA or Ametop, used for painful procedures such as a needle for an immunization.
Moderate to Severe Pain Management Medications for Kids
Sometimes children with moderate to severe pain may be prescribed opioids. Examples of opioid medications for children include:
These pain medicines can be given by mouth (orally), into the bottom (rectally), or into a vein through a previously inserted catheter (intravenously).
If your child is prescribed opioids and you have questions or concerns, talk to a member of your child’s healthcare team – including the person who prescribed the medication, or the pharmacist.
Comforting Pain Management Techniques Without Medication for Children
As a caregiver, comfort techniques can be just as important as medicine to relieve pain and help your child relax. Examples of these pain management strategies include:
- Comforting touch such as holding, rocking, cuddling, or swaddling.
- Providing positive affirmations such as “You are doing great.”
- Helping your child get into a comfortable position.
Distraction Strategies and Alternate Pain Management Therapy for Children
Distraction strategies work by diverting your child’s attention away from his/her pain and focusing on a new activity. Depending on the child’s age, common pain management distraction techniques can include:
- Role playing with favourite toys or stuffed animals
- Reading pop-up books
- Playing games
- Listening to music
- Watching a movie, a smart phone, or playing a video game
- Breathing deeply
How to Properly Monitor Your Child’s Pain
As a caregiver, after you are able to relieve your child’s pain it is equally important to check and see if his/her pain level has changed.
Call your family doctor if your child’s pain is not relieved or seems to be getting worse.
If you have questions about pain medication or pain management for your child, ask your family doctor or the pharmacist at your drug store.
See also the Elizz article on Palliative Care for Children or consult with an Elizz Nurse Advisor for additional health care assistance with pain management.
About Kids Health. (2010). Pain at Home: Taking Care of your Child. http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca/En/HealthAZ/TestsAndTreatments/PainReliefSedationAnaesthesia/Pages/PainAtHomeTakingCareofYourChild.aspx. Accessed January 2013.
American Medical Association. (2010). Pediatric Pain management. Chicago, Illinois. McGrath, P., Finley, G., Ritchie, J. & Dowden, S. (2003). Pain, pain, go away: helping children with pain (2nd ed.). http://pediatric-pain.ca/content/Families Accessed January 2013.