Pain Scores and Young Children
An important lesson I learned today while on duty. There is very little point asking a small child for a pain score.
This particular little person had fallen down a couple of steps, and had been brought down to be checked over. He didn’t have any pain anywhere significant (like the back of the neck), and neither did he seem to be in any particular distress. Normal practice suggests that I then try and have him quantify his pain level, so that I can work out if there’s something more going on. I go through the rigmarole of explaining ‘where 1 is next to nothing (as I gently poke him for demonstration) and 10 is the worst thing you have ever felt’, and his first answer “9”. Now in my experience, people who have 9/10 pain and and show no signs of it have either been really lucky (and so 10/10 is relatively low), have an incredible pain threshold (but even so…) or might possibly be stretching the truth a little. Looking at this little guy, his mother and I went for the latter. So I asked him if he was really sure it was 9/10, and stressed how important it is to tell the truth. So he now says 6, because that’s his age. Cue much rolling of eyes from me, my crewmate and his mother, and I give up.
The important lesson here, I think, is that I had made the mistake of treating this child like a little adult, and tried to apply a technique aimed at adults to someone who didn’t really understand what I was asking, let alone why. Children are not little adults, though it can be easy to forget this sometimes, and remembering this is important.