Children of all ages feel pain, but sometimes they are too young, sick or afraid to say how much they hurt. At these times, parents, in conjunction with the care team, are the best judges of a child’s pain. Parents know how to comfort their child and help them cope with discomfort.

Importance of pain control

Untreated pain can affect your child’s appetite, sleep, energy level and ability to do things. Pain may also change his or her mood and relationships with others. If pain is treated, your child feels better and may heal more quickly.

We learn about pain through a child’s:

  • Words
  • Actions
  • Body language and behavior

We will always ask you and your child about his or her pain in a way he or she can understand. We will look at your child’s behavior and how his or her body is reacting to the pain caused by his or her condition, procedure or surgery. Children may have pain and not show it clearly. Your nurse will assess pain upon admission to the hospital by taking your child’s vital signs, and will continue do so at each new report of pain, during/after procedures and before/after administering pain medication.

How to determine pain

Pain scales are tools that help measure and assess your child’s pain. School-age children use the Wong-Baker faces pain-rating scale to point to a facial expression that best depicts how they feel. Older children or teens may choose a numeric scale (0 to 10) to rate pain. We also have pain behavior scales to assess infants/children unable to verbalize their pain.

If your child has undergone surgery, postoperative pain management may vary depending on your child’s procedure. More minor surgeries typically require less pain medicine, while other surgeries need more active care to prevent and treat pain. Most postoperative pain can be minimized or prevented. There are many medications/methods that can be used to treat pain.

Please do not wait until your child’s pain is severe. Tell your child’s care team if his or her pain gets worse or you are concerned your child is uncomfortable. While not all pain can be eliminated, almost all pain can be reduced.

Our commitment to you and your child

All members of your health care team have a responsibility to:

  • Advocate for effective pain management
  • Teach you and your child about pain/pain management
  • Involve you and your child in pain-care decisions
  • Tailor pain-relief interventions to your child’s individual needs
  • Monitor and modify pain interventions as needed
  • Communicate with other members of your health care team about your child’s pain
  • Listen to you and your child, understanding that children’s reports of pain reflect their real experiences
  • Assess pain using a developmentally appropriate assessment tool

There are also several therapies and interventions that you and your health care team can employ to help alleviate your child’s pain-management process.

Here are a few ways to help support your child:

  • Children often feel more secure with a parent or loved one present
  • Give simple, honest information about what will happen
  • Help children ask questions and express their feelings
  • Give children choices and control over their treatment when possible
  • Try deep, steady breathing and relaxation exercises
  • Distract your child through play, imagination exercises, TV, music or books

UCLA Child Life Specialists are available for pre-procedure preparation, procedural support and non-pharmacological behavioral interventions as well as pain management consultations with the UCLA Pediatric Pain & Palliative Care Program.

If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s pain or pain-management plan, please do not hesitate to discuss them with a member of your child’s care team.