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Doctors Rethinking How They Treat Children in Pain

treating pain in children, aap report

A new report encourages doctors to prioritize pain treatment for children.

One of the least understood areas in medicine is how to treat pain. And one of the most under-studied areas of pain management is the one dealing specifically with children.

But making trips to the Emergency Room — or treatments for chronic conditions — less painful can make a huge service difference in the experience of the child and family, says Dr. Audrey Paul, pediatric ER physician and an associate professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Paul was interviewed by MSNBC about a recent report from the American Academy of Pediatrics that instructed doctors, EMTs and other healthcare providers how to treat children’s pain in emergency situations.

The report encourages medical facilities directors to create child-friendly spaces with videos and bubble-blowing and other fun distractions. Paul also says she encourages her clinicians to not fear treating pain with actual painkillers — even something as strong as morphine. What’s important is that children have positive experiences when interacting with doctors.

What researchers point out, though, is that parents play a huge role in ensuring their kids have a positive, and as painless as possible, trip to the hospital or doctor’s office. Parents know their child best and know when the pain is too intense. They have to be advocates for their children and sometimes cross that pain-in-the-ass threshold in order to do so.

It’s not always a easy in thing. ERs and other medical facilities are top-down kinds of organizations, with the patients at the bottom of the hierarchy. Speaking up isn’t always welcomed and for those who are conflict averse or unsure of the rules it can be difficult.

Here are 5 tips on advocating for your child [from MSNBC]:

  • Stay calm, but be firm. As Paul mentioned, sometimes when the ER is busy, you may have to advocate more firmly. Stay calm, but remind them of your child’s unaddressed pain.
  • Be informed. When possible, know and learn about your child’s illness. Have old records and know the most recent results of X-rays or labs. Share what types of pain medication have worked for your child in the past.
  • Try it yourself. Attempt to treat minor pains (like ear or throat pain) at home with over-the-counter pain relievers before bringing the child in. If the child is still with pain when you arrive, you can make your case that it’s more urgent.
  • Listen before reacting. Sometimes there are medical reasons why your child’s pain can’t be treated immediately. Be willing to hear what the doctors and nurses have to say about it.
  • Ask for alternatives. See what options your ER has to distract or treat the pain without medication.

For children who see the doctor a lot, or who are particularly sensitive to pain or unusual situations, it’s essential for parents to know that they can prioritize their child’s comfort over the convenience or routines of a medical staff.

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