What to Expect When Your Child Needs a Blood Draw

There are few things scarier to a child than a needle. Whether it’s for a vaccine, an IV, or a blood draw, apprehension looms large when a child spots a needle in the room. With pediatricians increasingly ordering blood tests as a way to manage their patients’ care, most children will need a blood draw at some point during childhood.

While not many people want to have their blood drawn, there are a few things that parents and caregivers can do to help prepare a child for the process.

Explain things in advance

For most children, not knowing can be more frightening than knowing. Describe to your child what will happen at the lab during the draw and how important it is to remain still. And remember, honesty is the best policy. Kids should know that there might be a little pain from the needle, even if it’s just a pinch!

Stay positive

Sometimes the person who is most anxious about a child’s blood draw is the parent or caregiver. For your child’s benefit, try your best to stay upbeat about the process. If you have had a bad experience with phlebotomy in the past, it is best not to share this with your child before their visit. If you find that you are feeling more anxious about the draw than your child, consider sending him/her to the lab with a spouse, grandparent, or other trusted family member.

Bring a distraction

Sometimes, it can be difficult to get a child not to focus on the blood draw, especially when it is their first time. However, if a young child has a favorite stuffed animal to squeeze or a favorite song to sing, these can be successful tools for diverting their attention and forgetting about the task at hand. For older kids and teens, a cell phone or tablet can be the perfect way to get their minds off of the visit.

Keep hydrated 

Ensuring that your child is well hydrated before their blood draw makes it easier for technicians to find and collect your child’s blood. Did your child’s doctor order fasting labs? If so, your child is still allowed to drink water. He or she just needs to avoid food (including hard candy and gum) and other beverages prior to the collection.

Let them look

Parents will sometimes cover their child’s eyes during a draw believing that things will go better if the child cannot see what is happening. Often, instead of easing the child’s fears, this often raises their anxiety. Kids are curious, so letting them see the whole process removes some of the mystery and shows them that it’s not so bad.

Lend a hand 

Parents are encouraged to take a role in blood collections, especially when younger kids are involved. You may be asked to help hold your child during a blood draw; both to provide comfort and to help keep him or her secure. For more information on how to hold your child for medical procedures, such as a blood collection, click here. Let us know how we can help.

If your child has had a bad experience with blood draws before, or if he or she has a history of passing out after blood collections, please let the technician know. Often, lab personnel can provide a little extra care, soothing words, or even position a child so that he or she is less likely to faint.

Bring a snack 

Kids who have been fasting in preparation for a blood draw often appreciate when there is something yummy waiting for them after the collection is complete!

Need help getting your child ready? We have “social stories” available on our website that read like a picture book and are perfect for explaining the process to young children. Click here, for more information.

Sarah Greenberg
Sarah Greenberg, MHA, MLS (ASCP)CM, is the Off Site Manager for Nationwide Children’s Laboratory Services. She currently oversees patient collection and testing at fourteen laboratories throughout the state of Ohio. Sarah has worked at Nationwide Children’s since 2011.

One thought on “What to Expect When Your Child Needs a Blood Draw

  1. Halona McCracken on said:

    Great ideas. Love the thoughts of including the parent in the process of how to ease the tension. Really expected a “to do” list from a clinical perspective but enjoy seeing this from a parent perspective. Look forward to sharing this with my Mothers Group. Thanks Sarah for your hard work and preparation here!

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