Parent advice - nitrous oxide sedation

Cork Emergency Departments

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This information sheet is for parents of children undergoing sedation with nitrous oxide for a procedure while in the Emergency Department (ED) at Cork University Hospital (CUH).

About sedation

Sedation is a medicine given to children to make them feel sleepy and relaxed. When nitrous oxide is used for sedation it is given as a gas that your child breathes in through a mask – it is otherwise known as ‘laughing gas’.

Reasons for having sedation

Your child may become distressed and afraid when having certain tests or treatments. Fear can make his/her pain worse. Procedural sedation (sedation for procedures) aims to reduce your child’s anxiety and fear. Children do not always sleep with sedation medicines. The sedation may make them feel sleepy and/or make them unable to remember the procedure. The procedure can then be done without causing too much distress for you and your child.

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Permission to give sedation

As the parent or legal guardian we cannot sedate your child without your consent. You need to understand the reasons for sedation and the following risks:

What you need to know before consenting for sedation.

  1. A staff member will remain with your child until they are awake and if required, we will give your child oxygen through a mask or breathing tube
  2. Children may vomit. Very rarely, they may breathe the vomit into their lungs, which may require some specific treatment
  3. They may need to be treated with extra medicines such as anti-allergy medicine
  4. For your child's safety, do not take your child home until staff tell you it is safe to do so. Expect to wait for an hour or more after the procedure

About Nitrous oxide

Nitrous Oxide is an anaesthesic gas commonly used for minor procedures in children in the ED. Nitrous Oxide is frequently referred to as ‘laughing gas’. This gas will cause your child to become sleepy, dazed and easier to manage for procedures that require co-operation from the patient such as suturing (stitches). It may also cause some minor memory loss, which is generally related to the procedure itself (and is considered a good thing). The most common side effects related to Nitrous Oxide are vomiting or nausea, and this occurs in approximately 1 in 10 children. In the event of any side effect, your child will be managed by the ED staff until it is deemed safe for you and your child to be discharged home.

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Helping your child

Helping your child before the procedure

Helping your child during the procedure

Helping your child after the procedure

Care of your child on your way home and for the next 24 hours

Sometimes the delayed effects of the medicines may make your child a bit confused, sleepy or clumsy for a while after the procedure. You need to be extra careful in caring for and supervising your child for the next 24 hours.

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Key points to remember

When to return to the Emergency Department

Please return to the ED at CUH if your child:

If you are concerned, please contact the Emergency Department you first attended:

Mercy Injury Unit, Gurranabraher (021)4926900

LIU Mallow(022)58506

LIU Bantry(027)52900

Content by Dr Rory O’Brien, Dr Arina Kruis, Dr Íomhar O' Sullivan 28/05/2020. Last review Dr IOS 23/07/22.