How to Help Your Child Cope with Blood Draws
Bloodwork can often be a stressful experience for many children (and adults!). Certified child life specialists are trained to support children of all ages during various medical procedures, including blood draws. Here are some tips for helping your child or adolescent cope with bloodwork:
- Develop a coping plan. Coming up with a plan prior to blood draw can set your child up for success. Some helpful strategies include deep breathing, distraction with child’s favorite toy or stuffed animal, counting in a calm tone, comfort positioning, and use of Buzzy®. Buzzy® is a small device shaped like a bee that vibrates on a child’s arm. Buzzy® has been found to reduce pain by using vibration to disrupt signals between the brain and nerves that sense pain. You may also speak with your healthcare provider about medications for pain management, if necessary.
- Use a comfort position when possible. For young children, sitting on a caregiver’s lap in a safely implemented comfort position can add a sense of security, comfort, and support. Your phlebotomist can help you to determine the best way to hold your child to ensure everyone’s safety and success of the blood draw.
- Describe sensations. Children can become anxious during any stage of a blood draw — from tourniquet placement to cleaning with an alcohol pad. Try to help your child know what to expect by describing sensations. For example, you can describe a tourniquet as a “tight squeeze” and cleaning as “cold and wet.”
- Give an appropriate opportunity for control. Ask your child if he or she would like a countdown to the poke or if they would like to look away and be distracted instead. This provides the child with a sense of control over an experience that they have very little control over. Also empower your child giving him/her a job — to remain still so that the blood draw can go as smoothly as possible. This will also give the child control and a sense of autonomy over his/her own body.
- Be honest with your language. Honesty is an important component when speaking to your child about blood work. Try to avoid saying “it won’t hurt!” or “this will be quick!” It’s important that your child trusts you and the medical team to be honest with him/her. Try saying, “this will feel like a pinch or a poke” instead. Be careful not to say “all done!” until the blood draw is truly complete — that means the needle is removed and band-aid is placed. Using this language prepares the child for a sensation that he/she can relate to and provides realistic expectations, which can lead to a greater ability to cope positively with a blood draw.
Learn more information about Child Life Services at the Cardiac Center.