Conference Coverage

Managing pain in kids during minor procedures: A tricky balance



Managing painful or fear-provoking procedures in children is a balance of preparation, intuition, and technical skills, Baruch S. Krauss, MD, EdM said at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Baruch S. Krauss, pediatric emergency physician, Boston Children's Hospital Doug Brunk/MDedge News

Dr. Baruch S. Krauss

Dr. Krauss, a pediatric emergency physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, shared tips for producing a positive experience when children present for minor procedures such as an intravenous catheter insertion or a laceration repair.

Control the environment

Setting the stage for a positive experience for children and their parents involves decreasing sensory stimuli by minimizing noise and bustle, the number of people in the room, and the reminder cues. “Even if you have trust with the child, there are certain things that could trigger the child to become fearful and anxious,” said Dr. Krauss, who also holds an academic post in the department of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, Boston. “You want to make sure that medical equipment or a syringe is covered – anything that would remind the child or trigger the child to be more concerned and anxious.”

He recommends careful use of lighting, particularly in children who present with a head laceration or a facial laceration. “You may need to put a light near the wound, but that may be fearful for the child,” said Dr. Krauss, who coauthored a recent article on the topic that contains links to instructional videos (Ann Emerg Med 2019;74[1]:30-5). “Read the cues of the child,” he said. One desensitization technique he uses in such cases is to tell the child a story about the sun. He then goes on to liken the warmth of the exam light to the warmth of the sun.

Limiting the number of clinicians who speak to the child during the procedure also is key. “One person should speak to the child,” he advised. “Otherwise, it creates confusion for the child and it is hard for them to focus their attention. What you really want is to be able to control the child’s attention. You want to be able to capture their attention.”

It’s also important to keep medical equipment out of view. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen consultants come in and a child needs to have a laceration repair, and they’re filling the syringe with lidocaine in front of the child,” Dr. Krauss said. “You want to avoid that. You also want to work outside of the child’s visual field if you can. Positioning is critical. I will try whatever position works for the child and the family.” This may including asking the parent to hold and swaddle an infant during the procedure, or positioning young children in the parent’s lap with their arm secured.

“Two things that upset kids during laceration repair are water dripping into their eyes during irrigation and the suture falling across their face as you’re stitching,” he added. “You want to develop your procedural skills so you can avoid that happening.”


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