Mask fear in children presenting for anesthesia: Aversion, phobia, or both?

H. J. Przybylo*, Sally E Tarbell, G. W. Stevenson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Background: Anesthesia induction in children is commonly accomplished by introducing volatile agents by mask. Occasionally a child describes an excessive fear of the anesthesia facemask. Little is known of the cause of the fear or of the quality or magnitude of the feelings the child is experiencing. The purpose of this study was to allow children who have established mask fear as demonstrated by volunteering the presence of fear and requesting no mask be placed on the face during the induction of anesthesia and their parents to describe and compare the distress from the mask to the alternative intravenous anesthesia induction. Methods: Eight children describing mask fear on the preanesthetic examination were studied. An Anesthesia Mask Fear questionnaire developed by the investigators was answered by the children and their parents. Results: Six children and their parents completed the study. The age at presentation of mask fear ranged from 1.4 to 14 years. There were one to 16 anesthetic exposures prior to reporting mask fear. One child described an aversion to the odor of the mask. Another boy developed mask fear after a single anesthetic exposure. He was subsequently diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder. Four female children developed mask fear after repeated anesthetic exposures. These children rated mask fear with the greatest discomfort possible while venous cannulation was scored at half or less that of the mask discomfort. Conclusions: Care must be taken when developing a plan for anesthesia induction in children requiring multiple procedures. Children may develop an aversion to the odor or feel of the mask, or have a true phobia (irrational fear) of the mask. Those children with a phobia might also have other underlying anxieties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)366-370
Number of pages5
JournalPaediatric Anaesthesia
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 4 2005


  • Anxiety
  • General anesthesia
  • Induction
  • Mask fear
  • Pediatric
  • Phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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