“You will be put to sleep.”

When preschool and school age children need to have surgery and they hear the words “put you to sleep”, they often think of this phrase in terms of a pet being put to sleep.  This is how they have heard this phrase used before, so that is what they associate it with.  This can cause fears about not waking up from the anesthesia medicine, as well as fears about death during surgery.

Children and teenagers go off to sleep by receiving anesthesia medicine through a mask or through an IV.  Usually younger children use a mask and older children and teens get their medicine through an IV.  This is not always the case, so it is important to talk with your anesthesiologist and come up with a plan together, about what will be best for your child.  Here are some ideas for explaining how the medicine works and how your child will get the medicine.  You will notice, the older your child is the more information you can give.

For Younger Children:
Mask The doctor will give you some medicine air, so you will have a special medicine sleep and you won’t feel anything when the doctor is helping your body.

IV The doctor will give you some medicine though a little straw in your hand/arm, so you will have a special medicine sleep and you won’t feel anything when the doctor is helping your body.

For Older Children:
Mask- The doctor will give you some medicine air, called anesthesia, through a mask.  The medicine makes it so you have a special medicine sleep and you don’t feel or remember anything when the doctor is helping your body.

IV- The doctor will give you some medicine, called anesthesia, through a little straw in your hand/arm.  The medicine makes it so you have a special medicine sleep and you don’t feel or remember anything when the doctor is helping your body.

For Teens:
Mask- The doctor will give you some medicine called anesthesia.  This is medicine that you breathe through a mask.  This medicine makes your whole body go off to sleep, so you don’t feel or remember anything when the doctor is helping your body.

IV- The doctor will give you some medicine, called anesthesia, through an IV straw in your hand/arm.  This medicine makes your whole body go off to sleep, so you don’t feel or remember anything when the doctor is helping your body.

For younger children especially, but even for an older child or teen, it is important for you to explain they will be asleep because of the medicine the doctor gives them.  It is common to hear people explain anesthesia by saying it is like taking a nap.  However, if your child still takes naps, they could become fearful of taking naps because when they took a nap (had surgery), they woke up in pain.  Using the phrase “medicine sleep” can help your child understand their naps and nighttime sleep are different from the sleep they get from the doctor.

Teens also benefit from understanding they will be asleep because of the medicine they will be given.  They often worry about if they will wake up during their surgery and how they will wake up after the surgery is done.  If teens knows they are asleep because of the medicine given, it is easier for them to understand that when the doctor stops giving the medicine, after the surgery is done, they will start to wake up again.

As a side note, I used the word doctor to describe the person who gives and stops giving the anesthesia medicine; however the anesthesiologist, who is the doctor, often works as a team with a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).  Depending on your state and hospital regulations, either of these two professionals can give the anesthesia medication.

If your child has had anesthesia before, did they get it by mask or IV?

This entry was posted in Coping, Preparation, Procedures and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *