What is sedation?

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Sedation in children: Overview

Sedation is the use of medicine to help your child relax or fall asleep during a procedure. The medicine may be given by mouth, in the nose with drops or a mist, or in a vein (by I.V.). Depending on why your child is getting sedation, they may also get numbing medicine.

The doctor and nurse will watch your child closely while your child is sedated. They will make sure that your child gets just the right amount of sedative. Your child also will be watched closely after the procedure.

Your child may be unsteady after having sedation. An older child may have trouble walking. A baby may be unsteady when sitting or crawling. It takes time (sometimes a few hours) for the medicine effects to wear off.

It's common for a child to feel sleepy after sedation. A baby might sleep more than usual or be hard to wake up. The doctors and nurses will make sure that your child isn't too sleepy to go home.

How can you care for your child after they've had sedation?

  • Have your child rest when they feel tired. A baby may sleep longer between feedings. Getting enough sleep will help your child recover.
  • For the first few hours after sedation, follow your doctor's instructions about what your child can eat or drink. For a baby, your doctor will tell you if you need to change anything about your breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
  • After a few hours, allow your child to eat and drink a normal diet, unless your doctor has given you special instructions. If your child's stomach is upset, try clear liquids and foods that are low in fat and fiber. These include applesauce, baked chicken, crackers, and yogurt. If your baby has started to eat solid foods, your doctor will tell you what and when to feed your baby after sedation.
  • Have your child rest for at least 24 hours. This includes not doing schoolwork. It takes time for the medicine effects to completely wear off.

How do you prepare when your child is getting sedation?

You'll get instructions to help you prepare for your child's sedation. They'll include things like if your child needs to stop eating, drinking, or breastfeeding before sedation and when. If your child takes medicine, you'll be told what your child can or can't take before sedation. Follow all the instructions carefully.

What are the risks of sedation in children?

Serious problems are rare. They include breathing that slows or stops. An allergic reaction to the medicine could occur. Some things increase a child's risk of problems. They include being younger than 6 or having a developmental disability. Some conditions like obesity, sleep apnea, large tonsils, and major health issues also can raise risk.

What is sedation in children?

Sedation is the use of medicine to help your child feel relaxed and comfortable before or during a procedure. It may be used with numbing medicines. Your child may be awake and able to talk to the care team. Or they may be asleep.

After sedation in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Noisy breathing.
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.
  • Your baby is limp and floppy like a rag doll.
  • Your child is very sleepy and is hard to wake up.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has new or worse nausea or vomiting.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has a new or worse headache.
  • The medicine isn't wearing off and your child can't think clearly.
  • Your baby can't stop crying.
  • Your baby won't eat within several hours after leaving the hospital.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

How is sedation in children given?

The sedative medicine may be given by mouth, in the nose with drops or a mist, or in a vein (by I.V.). Your child will be watched closely. A doctor or nurse will make sure that your child stays safe and gets just the right amount of sedative.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.