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Pediatric pain guide for caregivers: Pain assessment tools

Learn about pediatric pain and how to manage it

What is pain assessment?

Understanding someone’s pain through pain assessment is the first step to pain management. 

You can assess pain in children by:

• Observing their behaviour and reactions, or
• Asking them to tell you about their pain

There are various pain tools to help assess pain. The choice of tool is based on the child’s age and their ability to self-assess.

Read BC Children's Pain Assessment Standard to learn about our approach.

What you can do

This page lists pain scales and behaviours that can indicate how much pain your child is feeling.


Your health care team will suggest the best pain scale to help your child or youth communicate about their pain.

  • Which pain tool to use is based on your child's:
    • Age and understanding,
    • Ability to share their experience, and
    • Need for others to assess through observation
  • When you use these pain tools, you (or others) rate how much pain you have.
  • Consider the context when assessing for pain. Is the pain impacting your child’s ability to play, to move, to eat, or to sleep? What impact is the pain causing?

If your child can self-assess their pain (point on a scale), they may use: 

If your child is young, non-verbal or not able to self-assess, they may use:

You know your child best. Please share any behaviour changes you notice with your child's health care team.

If your child’s pain gets worse, or if the recommended treatments do not help:

  • Phone the healthcare provider at BC Children's that is supporting your child's follow-up care. Use the phone number that you received at discharge.    
    Phone your family doctor or nurse practitioner.    
  • If you cannot reach either contact, call HealthLink BC (8-1-1) to speak to a registered nurse. Tell them your child’s pain is not being managed with the approaches recommended.

Pain myth busters: Assessing pain

Pain care at BC Children's

BC Children’s Hospital promotes a balanced, collaborative partnership between:

  • The person receiving care,
  • Their caregiver(s), supporter(s), and family, and
  • Staff and healthcare professionals within the organization and community.  

We are committed to improving health outcomes and services. Learn about our approach in Mind-body techniques: Helping children to cope with painful procedures.

For more information about supporting your child’s pain and services available at BC Children’s go to our Pain management and comfort webpage.