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New Hospital Blog : 1-11-11

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Wisdom of Families: Children Feel Pain Differently
by Trillium Hibbeln on 11/16/2010 at 11:07 AM


How many times have you seen your child howl in pain for something you can't believe hurts that much? Or, remember seeing your child get anxious and tearful just thinking about how much a vaccination might hurt?

Kids feel pain differently, and the anxiety and anticipation in their minds are often worse than the actual pain. As a parent, I think seeing your child in pain is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting.  If only we could take it for them!

Sometimes kids are too young to really be able to tell how much pain they feel. Imagine asking a child how much something hurts on a scale of one to 10. So we use a special "pain scale" of pictures of children's faces, and ask them to point to the face that most closely matches how much pain they feel.

At Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, our philosophy is that as much as possible pain should be eliminated or controlled. Sometimes distraction helps, such as when a child life specialist encourages a child to "blow away the pain" into a pinwheel or by blowing bubbles while an injection is taking place.

In the emergency department our staff members use a quick acting analgesic device called a "JTip" that quickly numbs the skin to prevent the pain of injections.

For painful or invasive procedures a sedation team administers medicine that eliminates the pain and the memory of the event. More than 5,000 children a year receive sedation for procedures at the children's hospital.

I'll never forget the relief I felt at the moment when I realized that my daughter, while being wheeled off for surgery, was actually comfortable and happy because of some light sedation she had received.  In fact, she was blowing bubbles as they took her to her surgery.  If we make it easier for kids, it's also easier for the parents.

What experiences have you had with your child in pain, and what do you wish could have been done differently?

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Comment posted by Anonymous on 01/06/2011 at 6:14 PM
My godson had a Nissen Fundoplication surgery and a g-tube installed when he was five months old. The staff at Spectrum was great at helping to try to keep him comfortable. (He especially liked the pacifiers dipped in sugar water!) It was a hard first night, though . . . we took turns standing at his crib and running our fingers through his hair. He is now 2 1/2 years old and relatively healthy . . . although he's still not a fan of doctors . . .
Comment posted by Anonymous on 11/16/2010 at 1:05 PM
My son has Down syndrome. We had a neck x-ray and routine blood draw Saturday and he screamed bloody murder during the blood draw. I've never seen him react that way. It's always a challenge, to say the least, but wow. They had me holding his legs in between mine so he couldn't kick, and it took 2 techs to draw the blood. I felt like part of the "bad guy team." We have his blown work up once a year. I'm not sure I want to do this again! Is there anything that would help prevent this kind of reaction from him? I understand his fear. He's had 2 heart surgeries and many hospital visits. But doctor visits and routine blood work are necessary.
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