Key points to remember
- parents are often the best judges of their child's pain
listen to what they tell you and watch what they do
if worried or in doubt about your child's pain, talk to your local doctor or if you are in hospital, a nurse or doctor
if you are unsure of whether or not to give any medication for your child's pain, it is best to get advice from your doctor
What is pain?
Very young children or children who are very sick cannot always tell us exactly what they are feeling. This can be quite distressing for parents who may feel confused about what their child is experiencing. Parents know their child's usual reactions and behaviours.
- their age
- their beliefs and understanding of what is causing the pain
- their beliefs in their own ability to cope
- their previous pain experiences and how they have seen other people dealing with pain
- how they have learned to respond to pain
How long does pain last?
Chronic pain lasts for a longer period of time, usually longer than three to six months. This pain can be constant or come and go at different times. It is sometimes difficult to find a cause for chronic pain. However there are treatments and special programs that can help your child cope better with chronic pain.
How do you know your child is in pain?
It is not always easy to know how much pain your child is experiencing. Listening to what they say and watching what they do can help us.
- facial changes or pulling a face
- changes in their sleeping or eating patterns
- becoming quiet and withdrawn
- refusing to move
Some children may tell us they are sore or hurting but may find it difficult to say how much they are hurting.
Remember that changes in their behaviour can also occur because they are scared or frightened.
Children can use a scale such as the Faces Pain Scale - Revised below. This will involve asking your child to point to the face that shows how much hurt they are feeling from "no pain" on the left through to "very much pain" on the right.
Hicks C.L. and others. 2001. The Faces Pain Scale - Revised: Toward a common metric in pediatric pain measurement. Pain. 93:173-183.
On this website
Helping your child manage their health care treatment / procedure
Pain and childhood cancer
Management of pain in childhood cancer
Treatment of pain in childhood cancer
Pain, pain go away: Helping children with pain - a booklet to help parents understand pain
Making cancer less painful: A handbook for parents - a booklet to help parents understand pain and teach them how they can help their child deal with pain from cancer
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2014
Printed on 31 July 2014. Content is regularly updated so please refer to www.kidshealth.org.nz for the most up-to-date version