This won't hurt a bit....

Emily Murray
Emily Murray
Analyst

Do you also want to punch medical staff when they say that? If the answer to that is "yes," then I can reliably inform you that you are in excellent company. If you actually restrain yourself from punching anyone, then you're doing better than many children we see. Surgery is scary, and the prep for it can be gross, frightening, and sometimes worse than the surgery itself (enemas, I'm looking at you). So how can we prepare kids for an upcoming surgery without adding to their fears?

First of all, see if the hospital has a pediatric pre-op program. These programs can be fantastic, and very supportive of each child's needs. If your child's surgery is outpatient or "day hospital," s/he will probably need to have a blood test and physical exam about 3-5 days prior to the surgery. A good pediatric pre-op program will bring you and your child in for that blood test and exam, and while you're there, will have nursing staff review the procedure, pre- and post-op instructions, and go through the consent forms with you. Child life staffers will work with your child, and using medical play, will help him understand what to expect from the anesthesia mask, make it clear that he won't feel any pain, answer any questions, and address any fears or misconceptions about the operation. Most programs also provide a tour of the pre-op area, where your child will go on the morning of the surgery, the operating room, and the recovery room, where you will meet your child when s/he is waking up.

If the hospital does not have a pre-op program, that's OK– you can do some of the same things at home, with your trusty smartphone! Look at pictures of an operating room, talk about the medicine that will put your child into a deep sleep, assure her that she will not feel any pain during the surgery, and that you will be there when she wakes up. And always, feel free to pepper your doctor with questions!

The questions that we are asked the most (and our answers!) are:

1. "Will it hurt?" To kids: No. The surgery will not hurt– there is a team of doctors in the operating room to care for you, and one of them has only one job: to make sure that you get exactly the right amount of medicine to keep you completely asleep and feeling absolutely no pain. Some kids tell us that they don't feel very good when they wake up after the operation– if you don't feel good when you wake up, tell your parent and your nurse. It's our job to make sure that you get the right medicines so that you do not hurt, and get better as quickly as possible.

2. “Can my Mom or Dad stay with me?” To parents: This varies by hospital– some hospitals allow parents to go into the OR and stay with their child until the anesthesia has taken full effect. Other hospitals don’t allow this. Ask if your hospital does, and if so, make sure that you’re comfortable going into the OR. Many parents are not, and have a hard time watching their child’s anesthesia induction– that’s OK. If you know that you will have a difficult time going into the OR, don’t do it– it may frighten your child more to see you frightened.

3. “The mask smells bad.” To parents: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this! That soft mask is the source of as much angst as the needle used for blood draws! It’s a very common fear for kids to have– see if you can get a mask from the hospital for your child to play with, and if not, look at photos of them online. Talk with your child about how soft the mask is, and that it may smell funny– tell them to try to remember what it smells like and to tell you about it after the operation. If your hospital allows you to go into the OR, you can also see if they would allow you to rub a little bit of essential oil (I always used orange or lemon) onto the inside of the mask. That will take away the funny smell and you can tell your child to focus on smelling the lemonade as they go to sleep.

In my experience, the success stories are from kids who felt in control during their hospital stay– who were able to ask their questions and who had coping mechanisms in place to help them deal with any anxiety or discomfort. As the expert on your child, you, the parent, has the greatest role in getting your child to that place– so do what feels right to you, and best for your child.

Oh, and when you hear, “Just need to get your discharge papers and then you’re free to go!”– know that it may take a while to do that. Please don’t punch us.

Carolyn Cheek- Massey
Carolyn Cheek- Massey
Commentator

Wow this would be great. My daughter sure needs a Comfortaire, she gets hot at night and this would help her sleep better. Never heard of Bamboo fibers to make products with. Great review on this, thanks.

This is a great article and something that just about everyone can relate to

Lindsey Chapman
Lindsey Chapman
Senior Analyst

We've found that with our kids, honesty is really important. "Yes, this shot will hurt, but just for a few seconds." "Yes, you might hurt when surgery is over, but the doctors will have medicine ready to help you with that." Having the truth surprise them isn't helpful. When he's feeling anxious, one of our boys needs to know how and why certain tools work and are necessary (especially at the dentist). Easy-to-understand explanations don't always make the situation completely better, but he can calm down enough to accept that certain procedures need to happen.


Contributor

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Linda Buzard-Moffitt
Linda Buzard-Moffitt
Commentator

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Randy Fulgham
Randy Fulgham
Commentator

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Sonya McAlister
Sonya McAlister
Commentator

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Sandra Schultz Hurt
Sandra Schultz Hurt
Contributor

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Donna Dufresne
Donna Dufresne
Contributor

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Heather Granruth
Heather Granruth
Columnist

This is a great article and something that just about everyone can relate to. A few years ago, my little cousin was going to have surgery (his adenoids and tonsils were being taken out to be exact) and as I had had the same surgery when I was younger, I talked with him and tried to put his mind at ease. Hearing about my experience and how I had made it through ok seemed to help make him feel better. I tried to get down on his level and put myself in his shoes and this made me more effective in talking with him. Kids are human, they have fears just like the rest of us, even more so at times. It is our job as adults to take the edge off of that fear and to be a source of comfort and support for them. As I said, I greatly enjoyed the article!