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3-2. Differences Between Children and Adults

Look at a child and an adult, standing side by side, and you can see the most obvious difference between the two--size. Usually, the adult is larger than the child. There are, however, other differences between children and adults. For example, a child's volume of blood is much less than an adult's volume of blood. Your awareness and knowledge of such differences is essential to effective management of pediatric emergencies. Some important differences between children and adults include the following:

a. A child's head is larger in proportion to his body than an adult's head is in proportion to his body.

b. In babies, the body's temperature control mechanism is immature and unstable.

c. Children have smaller airways with more soft tissue and a narrowing at the cricoid cartilage.

d. The respiratory rate of a child is faster than that of an adult.

e. A child's trachea opening and the esophagus opening are closer together than in an adult.

f. Children dehydrate easily.

g. Children have less blood than adults. This makes children at greater risk than adults from bleeding to death or developing severe shock from a relatively minor wound.

h. Children have faster heart rates.

i. Young children's extremities are likely to appear mottled. This condition may be a response to cold because of an immature temperature control rather than a response to poor circulation.

j. Children have more skin surface area in relation to body weight than an adult. This fact means that a child loses more fluid across damaged skin; for example, a severely burned child may lose a great deal of fluid.

k. A child has less muscle and fat mass than an adult. Therefore, a child has less padding and is more vulnerable to blunt trauma than an adult.

l. A child's abdominal organs are relatively larger than an adult's. A child's diaphragm is lower than adults. A child, therefore, is more likely to suffer injuries to the liver, spleen, and duodenum.

Section II. PATIENT ASSESSMENT

David L. Heiserman, Editor

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Revised: June 06, 2015