How to Explain a Catheter to a Child

Catheters can be necessary for a number of reasons, and whether they are placed in a child in your care or you have one yourself, knowing how to explain a catheter to a child can be a helpful step to increase his understanding and help that child to take precautions around it. Catheters can be useful if they are cared for properly, so the goal is to make the child knowledgeable enough to help you keep the catheter in good working order.


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    Know what to do if your child is the one receiving the catheter.
    • Stay calm before, during and after the catheter procedure. Your child will draw off your emotions, so keeping calm will help him or her remain calm.
    • Find out from a nurse if the hospital that you are at has coloring pages that talk about the issue. Many large hospitals have these available, and the coloring will help take your child's mind off any worry.
    • Explain to your child that the nurse will wash his private area (and use whatever words you normally use for that around the house as most kids probably wouldn't know what you are talking about if you say "private area"), and that the water may feel cold. Tell your child that the nurse will insert a tube into his body that will carry the urine (again, use whatever term you use in your household like "pee," "pee pee," "tinkle," etc.) into a plastic bag. This may vary by procedure depending on what kind of catheter your child receives.
    • Hold your child's hand while the catheter is being inserted, and do what you can to keep his attention on you instead of the procedure.
    • Explain how long the catheter will need to stay in for, and explain how important it is to not touch it or pull on it.
    • Let your child know that the nurse will be in to empty the urine-filled bag and clean him or her up multiple times per day. Your child may also be interested to know that the nurse is also checking to see how much urine your was produced.
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    Explain to your child what is going on if you or another loved one is receiving the catheter.
    • Explain to your child what the need is for the catheter. Catheters can be used for a number of reasons including the administration of fluids or medication, to allow drainage of fluids including urine or fluid from an infection, or they can also be used for the doctor to have access to the location by surgical instruments.
    • Let your child know where the catheter is at or going to be placed. You can also at this time explain to the child if it is a temporary catheter or if it is a permanent catheter.
    • Discuss with your child how the person with the catheter functions with the catheter, and how it does not hurt the person who has it.
    • Go on to explain, though, what care and precautions need to be taken around the catheter site so that it does not come out or so the person doesn't get hurt by the catheter getting tugged on.
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    Work with the medical staff to see if they have any other teaching tools like diagrams, books or models that you can use to explain what is going on. Kids like to be in the know, and using teaching tools to help explain will make the procedure and/or being exposed to a catheter fun and interesting, and possibly even something he can go back to school and tell friends about.


  • Don't downplay the importance of safety precautions such as keeping the site clean and not tugging on the site or the tube. Children don't need to be scared about it, but they do need to have a firm understanding of the importance of safety around the catheter.

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Categories: Childhood Health | Medication and Medical Equipment