What is nitrous oxide?
Nitrous oxide is a very quick-acting inhaled sedation medicine that decreases discomfort and anxiety. As with all medicines, there are benefits, side effects, and risks. Be sure to discuss any questions with the doctor or nurse.
How is it given?
You child will inhale the medicine through a mask, breathing in and out normally through the nose. Your child can pick the smell of the mask, such as bubble gum or strawberry. Sometimes, younger children resist the mask. If this happens, the nurse may gently help hold the mask in place. The nitrous oxide will make your child feel relaxed and sleepy. It does not cause a deep sleep, as general anesthesia does. It will be given a few minutes before the procedure starts and may continue until it is finished. For safety during sedation, a nurse will monitor your child throughout the procedure and afterward.
What are the risks or side effects when nitrous oxide is used?
Nitrous oxide is safe for use in children and there are no long- term side effects. The following side effects may occur for a short time: headache, nausea, or vomiting. In some cases relaxation may not happen when nitrous oxide is used. The nurse will also discuss any health concerns with you before your child receives the nitrous oxide. What are the benefits of using nitrous oxide? Nitrous leads to relaxation and decreased anxiety during the time it is being given. If your child is able to listen and follow simple instructions the procedure will go better and most children will also have less memory of the procedure. Another benefit to using nitrous oxide is that it is very short-acting, thus within minutes your child will be feeling “normal” again.
What other choices besides nitrous oxide sedation are there?
The specific choice is based on the procedure and your child’s health, so talk with your child’s physician about it. For procedures that are very quick or require the child to be awake and able to follow instructions the other choice may be no sedation. If you have any concerns about your child receiving nitrous oxide sedation, please discuss this with your child’s physician or the nurse before your child receives any sedation.
How can I help my child?
You are welcome to stay in the room while your child is receiving the nitrous oxide. For some procedures, you may be able to stay the entire time. Having you stay in the room during the procedure may be helpful to your child. Pregnant women are not allowed in the room because of an extremely rare but possible risk to the unborn baby. Reassure and explain to your child in simple words what is being done and why. Always tell the truth. Remain calm; the more relaxed you and your child are, the easier the test will be.
What else do I need to know?
All children are unique and may respond to nitrous oxide differently on each occasion.
What can I expect after the nitrous oxide is stopped?
Your child will receive oxygen for several minutes after nitrous oxide is stopped so once the mask is removed, the nitrous oxide is worn off. Usually, children are comfortable but sometimes they may be a little confused and irritable for a few minutes. A nurse will monitor your child and assist to make him or her comfortable. If your child is an outpatient, you must stay with him or her. Your child may eat right away unless there is a reason not to, such as another test. Once home, your child may go back to regular activities.