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How do doctors measure my child's pain?

To treat your child's pain, healthcare providers need to know how much pain he is feeling. Several tools can be used to help your child express this. Your child's ability to understand and communicate will help determine which tool is used.

A behavioral scale, called the FLACC (Face, Legs, Activity, Cry, Consolability) scale, can help rate the pain of a child who cannot speak. A healthcare provider will rate your child's pain by watching your child's face, legs, activity, crying, and how easily he can be consoled.

With a FACES scale, a child who is alert can say or point to the face that shows how much pain he is feeling.

Using a number scale, a child who understands numbers and can speak can rate his own pain on a scale from 0 to 10. Zero means no pain at all, and 10 means the worst pain imaginable.

If your child is able, his healthcare providers may also ask him to describe the pain. They'll want to know these things about it:
  • Where does it hurt? It hurts in my tummy, arm, knee. The pain moves around.
  • When does it hurt? It hurts just sometimes. It hurts all the time.
  • What does it feel like? It feels sharp like a knife. It's pounding. It burns. It feels like pins and needles.
  • What makes it feel worse? Sitting up makes it feel worse. It hurts more when I'm talking or swallowing. It hurts more when my mom goes away or there are too many people in the room.
  • What makes it feel better? I feel better when I shut my eyes and hold my blankie. Playing a video game makes me feel better. I feel better when I'm watching TV.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.