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Preparing A Child for a Blood Draw

Posted Feb 13 2009 4:55pm
Parents of kids with peanut allergies eventually face the dreaded RAST. I can't say that our experience went as smoothly as possible, but I guess we did something right since B doesn't freak out every time we walk through the doors of the medical clinic.

At our monthly support group meeting last night, a mom was asking for advice on her child's upcoming RAST. They had such an awful experience in the past and this mom was trying to find a reputable lab with experienced staff who would make it as painless as possible (for both of them). She's definitely not alone. I felt the same way last year.

So what's a mom (or dad) to do?

What's the best way to prepare your child for a blood draw and possibly try to make it a (gasp!) semi-enjoyable experience? Who am I kidding? How about just getting through it without too many tears and permanent emotional scarring?

Here are some suggestions I found online for preparing for an upcoming draw (are the wrong? are they right? who knows!?!):
  • Heat packs applied to the crook of the arm can help to dilate the veins (which results in an easier target for the draw).
  • Make sure your child is well hydrated prior to the draw. It increases volume in the veins, which helps phlebotomists find the vein more easily.
  • Take your child when you donate blood - you can explain the process to them and show them that it may hurt just a bit at first but that it only lasts a second and that they'll be ok.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for another person if they just aren't getting a vein by the second try (see the first link below for a great way to address this possibility before it even happens).
  • Ask your pediatrician to do the draw themselves (yeah, uh, I don't think B's pediatrician would do this - she's super cool too)
  • Ask for numbing cream ( EMLA ) to apply to the arm 30 minutes before the draw to avoid some pain with the needle stick.
  • Bribery (heck, a big ol' lollipop and pinwheel worked wonders for B). Of what I've read it's really important not to dangle a treat in front of your child and promise it only if they don't cry. I think the stress of the experience is enough to make you weepy, let alone the actual needle in your arm.
There are a countless number of sites online that have additional advice. This one is great. Dr. Greene is answering a question about kids who have to get blood work done alot, but considering that allergic kids need to go back each year in many cases, his tips apply (although I'm not sure that our doctor's office would accept 'goodies'). He has some fantastic advice - I highly recommend that you read it.

A few other sites to check out:
http://www.labtestsonline.org/ understanding/testtips/ kidtips-2.html
http://www. developmentalspectrums.com/ index.php/Testing/tips-for- blood-draws.html

What's your advice? How do you get through blood draws?
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