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Preparing your Child for Anesthesia

Providing Support

If your child needs to have an operation, you probably have plenty of questions, many of them about anesthesia. You may wonder if your child will feel pain during the operation, be aware of what's going on, wake up in the middle of the surgery and be scared, or not feel well feel afterward.

The concept of being unconscious or losing sensation in the body can be unnerving, especially when you're entrusting the health and well-being of your child to someone else. But anesthesia today is actually very safe. Unlike anesthesia of the past, when doctors often used nothing more than ether and a stethoscope, modern anesthesia in hospitals and surgery centers is administered by highly trained professionals who use a wide range of safe medications and extremely capable monitoring equipment.

Whether your child is scheduled for a minor procedure that needs no hospital stay or major surgery that requires recovery time in the hospital, it's important for you to be a strong support system for your child. The more prepared, calm, and reassuring you are about the surgery and the anesthesia, the easier the experience will probably be for both you and your child.

What Kids May Fear

Kids' age and developmental level play a large role in what they find scary about receiving anesthesia. Some kids, especially younger ones, may fear being separated from their parents. So they may feel more secure being with mom or dad in a preoperative holding room or induction room until falling asleep.

Older kids, however, may have much more complex fears: exposure of body parts during surgery, cutting and scarring of the body, waking up during surgery, loss of control, pain after surgery, and even death.

One common concern among kids, young and old, is whether they'll receive a needle and, if so, if it will hurt. A kind of local anesthetic cream can be rubbed on the skin to remove the pain of needle pricks when starting an intravenous (IV) line. This usually works well to soothe fears of getting a "shot." And, depending on the type of surgery and anesthesia being used, in many cases kids can inhale or drink medication to help them relax and feel sleepy before going into the operating room.

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