08:23pm Wednesday 23 October 2019

Parents are untapped source of pain relief: study seeks volunteers

A QUT researcher is calling on parents with children under three years old to complete a survey for a study on how they help their children cope with acute pain.

PhD psychology researcher Candice Loopstra, from QUT’s School of Psychology and Counselling, said she hoped to develop a guide for medical staff on how to harness parents’ specialised knowledge and experience during painful procedures such as inserting a drip.

She aims to work out how best to support parents of premature and sick babies who undergo many painful procedures.

“Parents are often overlooked as ‘experts’ in paediatric pain by researchers and clinicians,” Ms Loopstra said.

“I believe that what parents have learned through many experiences of helping their children cope with acute pain is invaluable.

“Parents have particular knowledge of their children and the comforting strategies that work for that child.

“I am investigating these strategies so that we can use parents’ experience to guide medical staff in hospitals and emergency departments on how best to help children cope.”

Ms Loopstra said children’s coping with pain depended a lot on how they saw their parents react.

“First-time parents are often thrown in at the deep end. It is a highly emotional time as it is, and some struggle with their own emotions and get very distressed when they see their child in pain which tends to make it worse for the child,” she said.

“This research could help those parents to work to their strengths. All parents have a strong desire to help their kids.

“A lot of research has found that it is important for very young children to learn how to cope and not be emotionally overwhelmed by pain.

“Poor pain management in childhood can lead to future avoidance of medical procedures and more apprehension and fear about health seeking.”

Ms Loopstra said key ways to react to pain in children were to show empathy and to remain calm.

“Parents can stay with the child when in distress and try and talk them through it. They need to look to their child for cues on what they need from their parent.

“However, each parent-child pair is different in the way they react. That’s why it’s important for us to find out how and why certain strategies work with some parent-child pairs and not with others.”

Parents of children younger than three years one month can help Ms Loopstra’s research by completing the online survey at http://survey.qut.edu.au/survey/173393/1703/. The survey takes about 20 minutes and participants go into the draw to win one of two $100 iTunes or Coles/Myers vouchers.

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** High res pic of Ms Loopstra available for media use.

Media contact: Niki Widdowson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 2999 or n.widdowson@qut.edu.au

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