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Children 2018, 5(4), 53;

Children’s Experience of Symptoms: Narratives through Words and Images

Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Palo Alto, CA 94304-5876, USA
Pediatric Palliative Care Program, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, Palo Alto, CA 94304-5731, USA
This article is an abridged version of a paper presented as part of a pre-congress symposium: “Treating Distressing Symptoms in Children with Serious Illnesses” at the 3rd Congress on Paediatric Palliative Care: A Global Gathering in Rome, November 2016.
Received: 14 March 2018 / Revised: 14 March 2018 / Accepted: 29 March 2018 / Published: 19 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Pediatric Palliative Care)
PDF [2313 KB, uploaded 3 May 2018]


Children who live with a complex chronic or life-threatening illness face extraordinary challenges. Whether they are receiving disease-oriented treatment (aimed at potential cure or prolongation of life) or palliative treatment—or both concurrently—our challenge is to enhance their comfort and minimize their distress. Symptom management is thus a critical component of pediatric palliative care. Symptoms may be either physical or psychological in nature (or a confluence of both) and their effective management has a direct impact on the child’s quality of life. This article provides an integrative overview of children’s experience of selected physical and psychological symptoms, as expressed through their words and images. Understanding their perspectives is an essential component in the design and provision of optimal symptom management. Included, as well, are examples from siblings—a reminder of the profound impact of illness on these children who also “live” the experience, albeit in a different way. The symptoms that are described are pain, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, weakness, seizures, hair loss, depression, and anxiety. Although psychological symptoms are often inextricable from the physical, they may also present independently as part of the overall illness experience. View Full-Text
Keywords: pediatric palliative care; life-threatening illness; complex chronic illness; symptoms; experience; psychological; trauma pediatric palliative care; life-threatening illness; complex chronic illness; symptoms; experience; psychological; trauma

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Sourkes, B.M. Children’s Experience of Symptoms: Narratives through Words and Images. Children 2018, 5, 53.

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