Delirium in Children: Identification, Prevention, and Management

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Delirium in children is an often underrecognized but serious complication of hospitalization. Delirium in this age group has been described as behaviors such as refractory agitation and restlessness, visual or auditory hallucinations, children being “not themselves,” and a lethargic state. Often, children with delirium are at risk for harming themselves by dislodging tubes, falling, or refusing care. Pediatric nurses must recognize and intervene to prevent and treat delirium in hospitalized children because the delirium may be an indicator of worsening clinical status and is associated with high mortality and morbidity in children of all ages and with posttraumatic stress disorder. Pediatric nurses are uniquely positioned to design care interventions to both reduce risk for delirium and treat active delirium. Many treatment recommendations are nonpharmacological and are part of excellent nursing care.

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