ER docs learn better ways to help hurting kids

Taylor and Tamiko Brooks

Taylor Brooks, 14, shown with her mother, Tamiko, has sickle cell disease and struggles with pain.

Tamiko Brooks tenses as she recalls an emergency room visit two weeks ago with her 14-year-old daughter, Taylor, as she experienced excruciating pain from sickle cell disease.

“Taylor was crying and moving all around,” says Brooks. “She found someplace comfortable and rocked back and forth in order to deal with the pain. You could just see the tears coming down from her eyes as she said, ‘Mommy can you tell them to give me more medicine? I’m still hurting.’”

Sickle cell disease is a painful inherited condition that causes red blood cells to clog small arteries to her bones, organs, brain and chest.

When sickle cell crises flare, these children can require large amounts of strong IV pain medications to bring the pain down to a tolerable level. For this reason, Brooks and her daughter have had many ER visits for pain control, including the one just two weeks ago.

“They gave her 4 milligrams of morphine, and you have to wait two hours before you can get the next dose,” Brooks explains. “She suffered for two hours. Maybe the protocol needs to be revamped, or maybe they need to up the dose. I don’t know.”

Children’s pain has historically been undertreated in health care settings. In the ER in particular, a child’s pain may go unaddressed or inadequately treated for several reasons. Some of those identified include the comfort level of the doctor giving the medications, how busy the ER is that day, and difficulty in deciphering how much pain a child is in.

A new report out today from the American Academy of Pediatrics instructs doctors, providers and EMTs on the best ways to treat children’s pain and anxiety in emergency settings — sometimes, without medication.

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