Know the Signs of Pain in Children
Every child is unique, with individual pain experiences, responses and tolerances.
Usually a child’s pain is obvious, and the cause is clear. Even infants can communicate pain through a loud and urgent cry.
Sometimes a child’s pain is less obvious, or completely obscured. This is frequently the case when a child experiences multiple procedures, or is non-verbal and unable to explain the pain in words.
Signs of Pain in Children
- More irritable and restless, shifting position often.
- Tense, stiff and unwilling to be touched or to move.
- Unwilling to play or be social.
- Sleeps more or less than usual.
- More needy/clingy or more withdrawn than usual.
- Crying, moaning or complaining, or not crying at all.
- Clutching a part of the body and rocking.
These signs are very general and could be related to a number of other experiences. If you see any of these or other signs, talk with your child to find out how he is feeling.
Talk With Your Child
Create some family words about pain – they can be real descriptive words, or words you make up together. If your child already uses specific words to communicate pain, use those pain words.
- Are you hurting or are you feeling sick?
- Do you have an owie / boo boo / ouchie?
- Do you feel sore or grumpy today?
Try to relate your questions to something the child can describe. Older children can use formal pain scales – an example is included below.
- Is this a big loud pain or a little quiet pain?
- Is it creeping and crawling all over or is it staying in one place?
- Where is it? Can you show me on your body / on your teddy / doll?
- Point to where it hurts.
- Can you tell me how strong the pain is? If ‘1’ is the easiest pain, and ‘10’ is the worst pain, what number is your pain?