OBJECTIVE: To compare pre-hospital parental administration of pain relief for children with that of the accident and emergency (A&E) department staff and to ascertain the reason why pre-hospital analgesia is not being given. DESIGN/METHODS: An anonymous prospective questionnaire was given to parents/guardians of children < 17 years. The children were all self referred with head injuries or limb problems including burns. The first part asked for details of pain relief before attendance in the A&E department. The second part of the questionnaire contained a section for the examining doctor and triage nurse to fill in. The duration of the survey was 28 days. RESULTS: Altogether 203 of 276 (74%) of children did not receive pain relief before attendance at the A&E department. Reasons for parents not giving pain relief included 57/203 (28%) who thought that giving painkillers would be harmful; 43/203 (21%) who did not give painkillers because the accident did not happen at home; and 15/203 (7%) who thought analgesia was the responsibility of the hospital. Eighty eight of the 276 (32%) did not have any painkillers, suitable for children, at home. A&E staff administered pain relief in 189/276 (68%). CONCLUSIONS: Parents often do not give their children pain relief before attending the A&E department. Parents think that giving painkillers may be harmful and often do not have simple analgesics at home. Some parents do not perceive that their child is in pain. Parents require education about appropriate pre-hospital pain relief for their children.
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