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Pain medicines are medications used for pain relief and comfort. A medicine used to reduce pain is also called an analgesic.
Your health care provider may prescribe medicines for pain if your child has pain due to an illness, a treatment, or a medical procedure. Some types of pain medicines are available without a prescription from a drug store or pharmacy.
Pain management plans have several goals. These include:
Always follow your care team’s instructions for medicines. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before you give a medicine to your child even if you have used it before. Do not give a medicine in larger doses or more often than recommended.
Your care team will consider several factors to decide how to manage your child’s pain. These include :
Below are some common medicines used for pain relief. Many patients get a combination of treatments to manage pain.
A health care provider may give acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen for mild pain. Other name-brand NSAIDs can also be taken with or without a prescription.
Make sure you know if the pain reliever medicine your child takes is an NSAID. Some children cannot take NSAIDs if they are at risk for bleeding. NSAIDs are never given with certain chemotherapy drugs such as high-dose methotrexate.
Some medicines (aspirin and choline magnesium trisalicylate) are linked to an increased risk for Reye syndrome after a viral illness. Talk to your doctor about how and when to use these medicines.
For more serious pain, doctors may prescribe the opioid drug morphine. For long-lasting pain, patients may use patient-controlled analgesia (PCA). This method allows patients, or in some cases family caregivers, to get a dose of prescribed pain medicine by pressing a button on the PCA pump.
For nerve-related or neuropathic pain, prescribed medicines may include gabapentin (an anti-seizure medication) and amitriptyline (an antidepressant drug). In some cases, doctors may prescribe steroid medicines to reduce pain and inflammation.
Common ways to give pain medicines include:
A nerve block is another treatment for pain relief. It involves the injection of either a local anesthetic or a drug into or around a nerve to block pain. Nerve blocks help control pain that cannot be controlled in other ways.
Hospitals and clinics usually offer several pain management options if your child might have pain or discomfort from a procedure. In addition to pain medicines, your care team may recommend strategies to manage pain without medicines.
Pain management medicines for procedures may include:
Your child may take pain medicines either at the hospital or at home.
Families often fear addiction to pain medicines such as opioids. Talk with your child’s care team about your concerns.
Let your care team know if you have concerns about your child’s pain level. See Measuring Pain in Children to learn how to assess your child’s pain.
Reviewed: July 2023