Managing Pain

Our goal is to make your child as comfortable as possible while in the hospital. For best results, we use a combination of pain medications and complementary therapies. Your child's nurse, doctor and other care team members can give you more information and suggestions. Please ask your physician or nurse what medications or therapies are being used to manage your child's pain.

Pain Medicine

What kinds of medicines can help pain?

We may use a combination of pain medicines to help relieve your child's pain. Often, we use over-the-counter type of medicines like acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Sometimes a child needs stronger pain medicines that are used in the hospital. Pain medications are given as a liquid, pill or suppository. Other ways to give medication is by the use of a tube in the vein (IV), back (epidural) or nerve (peripheral nerve catheter) may be helpful. Please ask your doctor or nurse which pain medicines are being given to your child.

How does pain medicine work?

Pain medications help the body block, ignore or decrease the pain signals reaching the brain.

How often is medication given?

Pain medications can be ordered and given as needed or around the clock. If you think your child needs more pain medication you can ask the nurse. It's harder to control pain that already hurts a lot, so let the nurse know when your child first begins hurting. Pain medication given every four to six hours may control pain better by stopping the pain before it starts.

Are there side effects from taking pain medicine?

Side effects are possible. The most common side effects are drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, itchiness, difficulty urinating, constipation and headaches. Less common side effects include an allergic reaction. There are medications that can treat the side effects. If your child has side effects from the pain medicine, please talk to the doctor or nurse about ways to treat the side effects. 

Can children become addicted to the medicine?

Parents sometimes worry that taking pain medicine or narcotics in the hospital will cause addiction. Studies show this is very rare. Narcotics are safe medicines when used under a doctor's care.

Pain Control Delivery

Analgesia is used to help block pain signals. We use several kinds of analgesia. Our goal is to make your child comfortable so that they can continue to do activities while in the hospital. If you have any concerns about your child's pain, please speak to the healthcare team. 

Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA)

Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) is a programmable pump that delivers IV pain medication at the push of a button. The pump is programmed to give a specific amount of medicine for your child's pain without going over the "maximum" prescribed dose. No matter how often your child presses the button, they only receive the amount of medicine that is safe for them. Your child should press the button when they are in pain or about to do an activity that may hurt (like getting out of bed). Have your child press the button 10 minutes before moving. They can press the button again during the activity. The PCA may take away most of your child's pain.

Epidural Analgesia

Epidural analgesia gives pain medicine continuously through a tube into the back. The epidural catheter is placed while your child is asleep in the operating room. Pain medicine is given through the catheter by a pump that is programmed to deliver it continuously at a specific rate. The pain medicines used in an epidural are local anesthetic and an opioid. This medicine is given close to the nerves blocking pain signals from that part of the body to the brain. An epidural catheter can be left in place for 1-5 days. Usually there are fewer side effects compared to pain medications. Patients will need help getting out of bed because their legs may feel weak.

A Peripheral Nerve Catheters (PNC)

A Peripheral Nerve Catheters (PNC) gives pain medicine continuously through a tube in the arm or leg. It is placed while your child is asleep in the operating room. Pain medication is given with a programmed pump to deliver the medication continuously to control pain to a specific area on your child's body. The pain medicine used is a local anesthetic that blocks pain signals from that part of the body from reaching the brain. Your child will be able to move but may not have feeling in the area that is receiving the medicine.