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Nitrous Oxide

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Nitrous Oxide Information

What is nitrous oxide?

Nitrous oxide is an inhaled gas that causes a decrease in anxiety and helps patients to relax. It also has some analgesic effect, which means that it can help decrease pain. Up to 80% of children that are given nitrous oxide will experience temporary amnesia, which means they won’t remember what happened during the time they were breathing the nitrous oxide. Other names used for nitrous oxide include “laughing gas” or “happy gas.”

How is it given?

The nitrous oxide is given through a mask that fits over your child’s nose, mouth and chin. In some cases, a “nasal hood” may be used instead, which just fits over your child’s nose.

We often “flavor” the mask with a scent, which your child will be able to choose, to help your child tolerate the mask better.

When using the mask, it does need to be held in place by the provider or an assistant. Family members are allowed to be present and near the child, but are not allowed to hold the mask.

How will my child feel and how long does it take to work?

Your child will start to feel the effects of the medication within 1-3 minutes. In some cases, it may take up to 5 minutes. Your child will feel more relaxed and less anxious. Your child may feel a little sleepy, although your child will not become fully sedated or go into a deep sleep with this medication. During painful procedures, your child will feel less pain. Often, even when feeling the pain, they do not seem to be bothered by it.

Are there any side effects?

The most common side effects of nitrous oxide are nausea and/or vomiting (approximately 5%). Some children experience a mild headache or agitation. Children may experience a “euphoric” state in which they are very happy/smiling/laughing/silly. These side effects wear off very quickly and are easily treated by turning the nitrous oxide off and having your child breathe 100% oxygen for a few minutes.

There are no long-term side effects for nitrous oxide when used occasionally. Patients that need nitrous oxide frequently may need a vitamin B12 supplement to prevent anemia.

How long does it take for my child to recover?

Your child will breathe 100% oxygen for 3 minutes after the nitrous oxide is turned off. Most children are fully recovered after the oxygen. Some children may be slightly agitated or disoriented for a few more minutes.

Are there any contraindications for nitrous oxide?

Yes. Your provider will assess your child for any of these contraindications and discuss other options if nitrous oxide cannot be used.

Does nitrous oxide work for everyone?

No. The majority of children and adults will be more relaxed, less anxious, and feel less pain when breathing nitrous oxide. However, some patients do not experience these effects or may become more agitated. Some young children may fight the mask so much that they are unable to relax. If this happens for your child, your provider will discuss other options.

Am I allowed to stay with my child while he/she is receiving nitrous oxide?

Maybe. Pregnant women in their 1st and 2nd trimester are not allowed to be in the same room as the nitrous oxide is being given due to a rare but possible side effect to the baby. It also depends on what procedure your child is having done. Parents are allowed to be present for some procedures, but not for others. You should discuss this with your child’s provider.

Can I do anything to help the nitrous oxide work better for my child?

Yes. Nitrous oxide works better in a quiet/calm environment when distractions are minimal. Stay close to your child if possible (will depend on the procedure and whether or not you are pregnant) and talk to your child in a calm, soothing voice. Try to stay calm and relaxed, as this will help your child to become calm and relaxed also.

What if I have other questions?

Ask your child’s provider.

Discharge Instructions

Your child received nitrous oxide today. Most children fully recover from the effects of nitrous oxide after breathing 100% oxygen for 3 minutes after the nitrous oxide is discontinued. Some children may be a little sleepy, a little disoriented, slightly agitated, or a little unsteady/clumsy for a few minutes after the oxygen. The effects rarely last longer than this. Your child will not be discharged until all effects are gone.

Do I need to monitor for anything once I get home?

Most children will not have any problems after discharge, as they are monitored until all effects are gone. However, you should still monitor your child closely for the next 24 hours.

Please notify us if your child experiences any of the following after returning home:

  • Vomiting more than 2 times
  • Extreme irritability
  • Difficulty waking
  • Unsteady/clumsy
  • Severe headache
  • Rash/hives
  • Fever/chills

You may reach the sedation unit at 668-7087 until 5 pm. After hours you should call the emergency department at 668-9247. Tell them that your child had nitrous oxide and you need to speak to the emergency attending physician. The emergency attending physician will be able to access your child’s records.

Go to the nearest ED if your child has:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing

Call 911 if:

  • Your child stops breathing
  • Your child looks blue or pale
  • Your child is limp
  • Your child has a seizure
  • You cannot awaken your child

Disclaimer:This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

Reviewed: 12/2017

(757) 668-7000