Acute Pain, Pediatric

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    Acute Pain, Pediatric

    Acute Pain, Pediatric

    Acute pain is a type of sudden pain that may last for just a few days or for as long as three months. It is often related to an illness, injury, or a medical procedure. Acute pain may be mild, moderate, or severe.

    Pain can make it hard for your child to do their daily activities. It can cause anxiety and lead to other problems if it is not treated. Treatment may not take all the pain away, but it may lessen the pain so your child can move around and tolerate it. Treatment depends on the cause of the pain and how severe it is. Acute pain usually goes away once your child's injury has healed or your child is no longer ill.

    Follow these instructions at home:


    A prescription pill bottle with an example of a pill.
    • Give over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your child's health care provider.
    • Do not give your child aspirin because of the link to Reye's syndrome.
    • Give the lowest dose of medicine for the shortest amount of time needed to relieve the pain.
      • Read labels and instructions to make sure your child's dose matches your child's age and weight.
      • Follow instructions carefully. Some medicines cannot be chewed, cut, or crushed.
    • If your child is taking prescription pain medicine:
      • Do not stop giving your child the medicine suddenly. Check with your child's health care provider about how and when your child should stop taking prescription pain medicine.
      • Do not give more medicine than told by your child's health care provider even if your child's pain is severe.
      • Do not give other over-the-counter pain medicines in addition to prescription medicine unless told by your child's health care provider.
      • Keep the medicine in a safe place, away from children or anyone who could use it in a way that it was not prescribed.
      • Ask the health care provider if the medicine prescribed to your child requires your child to avoid driving or using machinery.

    Managing pain, stiffness, and swelling

    A bag of ice on a towel on the skin.

    A heating pad for use on the painful area.
    • If told, put ice on the affected area.
      • Put ice in a plastic bag.
      • Place a towel between your child's skin and the bag.
      • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day.
    • If directed, apply heat to the affected area as often as told by your child's health care provider. Use the heat source that the health care provider recommends, such as a moist heat pack or a heating pad.
      • Place a towel between your child's skin and the heat source.
      • Leave the heat on for 20–30 minutes.
    • If your child's skin turns bright red, remove the ice or heat right away to prevent skin damage. The risk of damage is higher if your child cannot feel pain, heat, or cold.

    Managing constipation

    Your child's medicines may cause constipation. To prevent or treat their constipation, you may need to have your child:
    • Drink enough fluid to keep their urine pale yellow.
    • Take over-the-counter or prescription medicines.
    • Eat foods that are high in fiber, such as beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Limit foods that are high in fat and processed sugars, such as fried or sweet foods.


    • Have your child rest as told by the health care provider.
    • Have your child return to normal activities as told by the health care provider. Ask the health care provider what activities are safe for your child.
    • Ask your child's health care provider if doing physical therapy exercises to improve movement and strength can help manage your child's pain.

    General instructions

    • Ask your child's health care provider if distraction, relaxation, or using oils from plants in your child's environment (aromatherapy) can help to manage your child's pain.
    • Check your child's pain level as told by the health care provider. Ask the health care provider if you can use a pain scale to determine your child's pain level.
      • Young children can use a rating system with pictures of faces.
      • Older children can use a number system to rate their pain.
    • Keep all follow-up visits. Your child's health care provider will monitor your child's pain level.

    Contact a health care provider if:

    • Your child has pain that is not controlled by medicine.
    • Your child has pain that does not improve or gets worse.
    • Your child has side effects from pain medicines.

    Get help right away if:

    • Your child has severe pain.
    • Your child has trouble breathing.
    • Your child faints.

    These symptoms may be an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get help right away. Call 911.

    This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

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