September 18, 2023

‘Laughing gas’ helps relieve kids’ pain and distress in emergency rooms, study shows


Inhaled nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, should be used more widely to manage children’s pain and distress when they undergo emergency treatment in hospitals, says a University of Alberta expert.

“The more we can do for children to improve their pain experience in the emergency department — which is often their first exposure to health care in a crisis — the better they will cope as older children on repeat visits and as adults,” says Samina Ali, professor of pediatrics and emergency medicine in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry and pediatric emergency physician at the Stollery Children’s Hospital.

Nitrous oxide is widely used in dental offices, in hospitals for labour and delivery, and by paramedics. But its use in pediatric emergency departments is still limited in Canada, resulting in many children suffering unnecessary pain and sometimes leading to issues with needle phobia.

Ali is part of the national research group Pediatric Emergency Research Canada (PERC) and is the Western Canada hub lead for Solutions for Kids in Pain, both of which are supported in part by Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation. Ali and colleagues in the group recently published a review of Canadian clinical trials where nitrous oxide was used for pain management in pediatric emergency centres.

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