Editor’s Note: It’s not easy to put our little ones through medical procedures that we may be nervous about ourselves. But if you have to get a blood test for your young child, these tips can help the experience be less traumatic for both you and your son or daughter.
When my son was almost 3, his doctor suggested we get blood drawn to test for additional food allergies. Although I was overly stressed about the idea of a blood test for my sweet Little Guy, I’m happy to report our visit was NOT bad at all. There was some crying (by Little Guy AND me!) during the actual blood draw, but I think I can say we came out of it unscathed and ready to play. Here’s how we prepared for the big day.
10 tips that worked for us
- Research pediatric-focused labs: I asked my two allergy mom Facebook groups about great pediatric-focused labs and/or technicians in our area. They told me about good AND bad experiences with labs. Our insurance covers LabCorps, so I finally decided to go to the technician who was gentle with me for past blood tests and whose office is in a central location with (I assumed) many pediatric patients.
- Talk about the blood test in the car on the way to the appointment, NOT before. (This worked for our 2-year-old. It’s probably best to talk about this with older children ahead of time): I made no mention of the blood test until we got in the car. I told Little Guy he was going to take a short trip with Mommy and Daddy, and when we were in the car I said, “We’re going to the lab for a quick test. A nice lady will put a big rubber band on your arm, then wash the middle of your arm with a little cotton ball and water. Then you might feel some pressure.” I’m not sure “pressure” was the best word to use, but I thought it was less severe than anything else!
- Do not mention any scary medical words: We never said “blood,” “pinch,” “pain,” “needle,” etc. I knew he’d never even walk in the door if he envisioned anything negative. I also didn’t want him to associate this experience with the doctor as I hoped our next well check-up would be less stressful than the previous one.
- Wear a shirt with sleeves (long or short): Little Guy wore a long-sleeved shirt that could easily be pushed up to his shoulder. The lab tech put the rubber band on top of his shirt to make it a little less uncomfortable and not pinch the skin.
- Bring activities and books for the waiting room: Even though we had an appointment, we had to wait over an hour. *SIGH* Our allergist wrote Quest lab codes, and we go to LabCorps. The LabCorps tech wasn’t especially astute in figuring out which codes to use, so it was a long and stressful wait. Thank goodness for the apple chips, books and Highlights magazine my mom suggested I bring!
- Watch cartoons: We intended to have Little Guy watch cartoons on my husband’s phone during the blood test as a distraction. We actually didn’t have enough “hands” to do it since I was holding Little Guy in my lap and my husband was propping up his arm.
- Bring another adult: My husband came along to the appointment to help hold Little Guy. My parents watched Little Girl so we could both focus only on Little Guy that morning.
- Have the patient drink extra fluids before the appointment: I read that extra fluids may help pump up the vein and make it easier to find. Not sure if it helped, but we did it anyway!
- Offer something to look forward to afterward: We had a present for Little Guy in the car from my aunt, which had come the day before — a cute and loveable plush puppy. I actually didn’t know what was in the package or I may have brought the puppy in with us for comfort!
- Let your child cry: Research says that you shouldn’t tell your child not to cry. He’s allowed to cry. The blood draw probably does hurt. Telling him not to cry just undermines his feelings. Just reassure him that you’re there and he’s okay.
What I didn’t do (but may work for you):
- Role play: We role played with Little Guy for at least two weeks before and the morning of his 2-year regular doctor check-up. It didn’t work as he cried the whole time, so I didn’t try it for the blood test, but maybe role play will work for you!
Here are some resources I used to figure out how to prepare for our blood test in case they’re useful to anyone else going through the same thing.
Kathryn M. Martin is a wife and working mom of two who blogs about food, family and fun…with a food allergy twist, at Mamacado.com.