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Treating acute pain in children

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We cannot feel another person's pain. Even in fully alert and aware adults it can be hard to judge the severity of pain. Sometimes it can be quite difficult to pin patients down regarding where the pain is, where it started, whether they have tried any self-treatment to ease it and whether this has worked.

The answer to the standard question of how the severity of the pain rates on a scale of 1-10 may depend on the patient's previous experiences, their associated anxiety and their ability to cope with it.1

If pain assessment is difficult in normal adults, how much more difficult is it for patients who have poor understanding of the English language and/or have experienced a different cultural background, or for children?

The very young have no way of communicating verbally, even older children may find it difficult to express their feelings about pain and their parent's views, although often helpful, may be distorted by their concerns about their child's suffering.

It is therefore crucial for nurses to take a measured approach to the assessment of pain in the experience of the child so that the problem is controlled, the child's anxieties and fears minimised and physiological, psychological and physical functions are helped as much as possible.

Assessing pain

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