Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tips for Distracting Children in Pain

It can be very difficult to get an intravenous line in a screaming infant or a blood sample from a toddler in pain. It is especially hard when a preschool child has already encountered numerous tests and knows what happens next as a professional in scrubs comes close with a needle. What things work in distracting children from painful tests or general pain from an injury or illness?

Try these tips:

1. Explain in a simple way that the procedure must be done and describe the distraction that will be used, for example: " The nurse needs to do a special test. While she is doing that lets sing... hold your arm and lets make a song"  yada yada.... Use language that your child understands and an activity that is new or interesting to your child as well as age appropriate.

2. Play a favorite video or music on a portable player. Talk to the preschooler about what is playing and engage them in conversation while trying to keep their level of vision away from the procedure.

3. Have bright colored toys or movable rattles for toddlers and infants. Very small infants may suck on a pacifier dipped in "Sweet ease" which is a slightly sweetened water solution. This has been proven to be very soothing in combination with sucking on the pacifier.

4. Offering a stuffed animal to squeeze during the procedure also is a spring board for talking with the child. " What is your friends name?" or similar questions can distract the child during the event. Children become engrossed in talking about their favorite pets, stuffed animals, favorite vacation, or favorite cartoon. Know the age of the child and the level of understanding to be able to better relate in conversation.

5. Allow the staff to do the restraining if an infant or toddler must be held tight for the procedure. That keeps the child from associating the painful experience with the parent and most often the professionals can get it done quickly. You can then console the child after the event.

6. Moving lights, motion screens or mobiles, bubbles, music, and sometimes just plain silly actions can distract children fairly easily for short procedures. If a procedure is lengthy, consider asking your physician for pain relief or sedation to ease the event for your child.

7. Offer small rewards for success. Stickers, rocking, cuddling, or small healthy treats may be in store at the end of a painful procedure. Praise and gratitude also help toddlers and older children to learn to cope with repeated procedures.

There is nothing that will completely remove all pain that a child might endure during a lifetime, but these small tips may help to make the pain of a necessary procedure more tolerable. If any parent has other suggestions for tips that have helped their child, please leave a comment or email them to me so I can pass them along. Parents and nurses together can make many needed procedures less stressful if we work together.

1 comment:

Carla said...

These are great tips. I also think that if a kid has put up with shots or whatever unpleasantness, a little sugar never hurts. Even doctors will offer a sucker!

Carla @