Determining if your child’s pain is significant enough can be a quagmire for every parent. After all, kids can complain a lot about pain. Does this pain represent something I should truly be concerned about? Here are some things to consider to help determine whether your child’s pain is significant enough to be evaluated by a doctor.
1. It wakes them up in the middle of the night.
2. It stops their normal activities. They don’t want to play. You offer them ice cream and cookies and they turn their nose at you. If you have a teen, they stop texting.
3. It limits their normal functioning. Meaning, they can’t walk normally. They won’t bear weight on the extremity. They won’t use an arm. You ask them to touch their chin to their neck and they simply can’t. They lie on the couch all day.
4. You give pain medication and it doesn’t lessen or resolve the pain. Pain that doesn’t respond to over-the-counter analgesics is concerning and should be evaluated.
5. It’s associated with other symptoms. Fever, stiff neck, rashes, vomiting and diarrhea to name a few.
Children will often complain of headaches and stomach aches. Often times, nothing serious is going on but how can you be sure?
My youngest, who is now seven, used to complain about stomach pain a lot. How do I tell the difference between her wanting attention and something truly physical going on? At the time, she didn’t have any other symptoms… just the pain. After several of these episodes, I took her to her pediatrician for an exam. He didn’t find anything concerning. I think this should be done for headaches and other complaints of pain as well. Take them to their pediatrician first for an exam.
If the pediatrician is not concerned, here’s something to try to see how bothersome the pain is. This is done only if the child has no other signs or symptoms (injury, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or funny rash). You have just the complaint of pain and the pediatrician has given the “all clear”. This is good to try around age 4-5 and up. Once adolescence hits, it may not be as effective.
Your child comes up to you. “Mommy, my tummy hurts.”
“Okay, sweetheart. I’m sorry you’re not feeling well. What I need you to do since you’ve told me you’re not feeling well is to go lie on your bed. No reading. No playing. No games. No TV (hopefully your five-year-old doesn’t have a TV in their room). I need you to rest for 30 minutes and then we’ll see how you feel.”
Fifteen minutes later. My daughter comes down. “I’m feeling better now.”
“Oh, honey. That’s great! But, since you told me you weren’t feeling well I do need you to lie down for the full 30 minutes. So, back upstairs you go and I’ll tell you when the rest of your time is up.”
Back up she goes. Time is up. The rest of the day there are no further complaints.
“Mommy, my tummy hurts.”
Ten minutes later this time… my daughter comes down. Again, I send her back upstairs to lie on her bed doing nothing but resting. Have them rest the full 30 minutes.
Strangely, that curbed her complaints of abdominal pain and she remained a happy, healthy child.
What are your thoughts? Do you think a strategy like this could work for you?
Jordyn Redwood has served the pediatric population and their families for many years. She has five years of experience in the pediatric ICU and ten years of pediatric ER nursing which is the area she currently works. Jordyn also teaches CPR and advanced resuscitation courses.
Disclaimer: Remember, these posts are for education and discussion. If your child is sick and you think they require medical attention, take them to their pediatrician or local emergency department.