Kids health

Should you be concerned when your child is prescribed opioids?

Opioids can seem scary, and no parent wants to expose their kids to risks, but what happens when your kid needs surgery? We asked a paediatrician.

My child was prescribed morphine after surgery, but I’m terrified of giving her opioids. Are there alternatives I can ask for?

Morphine can be very helpful in the first few hours or days after the operation. Post-operative pain can be very distressing to you and your child, and minimizing discomfort is important. Your doctor will carefully determine the dose to give, and dependency is not a concern with short-term use. Most of the side effects of short-term use are not serious, but some children may have nausea, vomiting, constipation, drowsiness or itching. 

Mom giving her sick son medicine Why ibuprofen is better for pain than morphine after your kid’s surgery For some minor operations, such as outpatient orthopedic surgeries, research has found ibuprofen (Advil) is just as effective as morphine. Feel free to ask your doctor whether ibuprofen might be strong enough for your child’s pain after surgery. 

If your child is prescribed opioids, always store them in a locked cupboard or cabinet, far out of kids’ reach. Typically, morphine is prescribed for only a day or two. After that, try giving ibuprofen or acetaminophen instead. Be sure to ask your doctor if there is a reason to avoid either of these medicines post-operatively, as there are some contraindications (such as liver disease with acetaminophen or kidney disease with ibuprofen). Then wait for increasingly longer intervals between doses to see if she still requires them. 

Read more:
How to prepare for your kid’s first hospital visit
6 common medication errors parents make