Childhood Cancer

Your Child in the Hospital

Medications used to treat pain

Children’s pain is typically treated with the same drugs used for adults. Mild pain may be treated with ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Mild narcotics, such as codeine, are used for moderate pain. Severe pain—such as might be experienced the first few days after major surgery—can be effectively treated with one or more medications. These drugs can be given by mouth, by IV, in a suppository (most often given if a child has nausea or vomiting), or by injection (rare in children).

Pain medication should decrease or eliminate your child’s pain. If the prescribed medications are not curbing your child’s pain, or your child is very nauseated, tell the nurse and doctor. Most hospitals have a “pain team” of specialists in pain control. Ask for a consultation with this team if your child’s pain is not well managed.

If your doctor prescribes pain medications to be taken after your child is discharged, pick up the prescription at the hospital’s pharmacy or your local pharmacy on the way home. Be sure to follow the doctor’s directions to keep a constant level of medication in your child’s body. If you wait until your child is in severe pain before giving the medication, it will take a higher dose and will take longer for your child to become comfortable again. Make sure to store all medications away from children or pets.