How to Ease Your Child’s Fears Before Lab Work


No parent likes to see their child feeling anxious or experience brief discomfort, but a blood draw for a child can sometimes involve both. The younger the child, the more difficult it is for them to understand that the medical staff is trying to help and not hurt. Your child may feel especially upset if this is his or her first experience with a blood draw.

At UPMC Western Maryland, we want to help families ease any anxiety before a procedure, no matter how young the patient might be. Below, we share some tips from Aha! Parenting and Quest Diagnostics to help make this situation less stressful for both of you.

Make Sure You Understand the Purpose of the Lab Work

Before you schedule your child’s appointment and bring him or her to one of our labs, it’s important that you understand why he or she needs the blood draw in the first place. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and raise any concerns that you have about the procedure to put your own mind at ease. If you feel anxious, your child is likely to pick up on that and become even more fearful about the procedure.

Consider Your Child’s Schedule When Making the Appointment

You know your child best and when he or she is likely to feel the most tired or hungry. It’s best to avoid scheduling at those times if possible. Eating before the appointment may help settle your child down and decrease the chance of lightheadedness after the blow draw. However, some blood tests will require your child to fast for several hours first. In that case, try to schedule it for first thing in the morning and bring a snack along so your son or daughter can eat immediately after the appointment.

Be Honest and Comforting

A finger prick may be no big deal to you, but it can be for a child. You should never promise that it won’t hurt, but you can say that the discomfort will pass quickly and that you will remain with him or her the entire time. Our lab technicians are fine with parents holding a child in their lap because it provides our young patients with a sense of comfort. Offer your child plenty of praise and reassurance but avoid scolding if he or she expresses any type of fear. We will do our best to put your child’s mind at ease as well.

Do Your Best to Distract Your Child

Besides the fear of the needle and the pain it might cause, seeing tubes fill up with their blood can make some children feel very frightened. You can potentially avoid this issue by bringing along plenty of things to distract your child as one of our lab technicians draws blood. If it’s allowed, you can give your child a small treat such as a lollipop and tell him or her to concentrate on its flavor instead of the blood draw. Another idea is to play a game together by focusing on something else in the room and telling a story about it. You can even ask your son or daughter to sing you a song.

Practice with a Stuffed Animal at Home

The more you can prepare your child for the procedure, the less anxiety he or she is likely to have. If you have a play doctor kit at home, ask your child to give a shot to a stuffed animal. While the stuffed animal won’t bleed, it will give him or her an idea of what to expect. Talk kindly to the toy, wrap its arm, and explain to the toy that getting a shot might hurt for a minute but that it’s to help know what the problem is so the stuffed animal can start feeling better soon. Your child will see and mimic your tone. It will also help create a sense of empowerment towards the upcoming appointment.

Offer Choices When Practical

Kids often act up because they have so little control over their lives and they simply want to assert their independence. Of course, this doesn’t always happen at the most convenient times for parents. With the blood draw, any small choice that you or the technician can let your child make will help things go more smoothly. Some examples include which arm to use, whether he or she wants to hold a squeeze ball, and the color of band-aid once the blood draw is complete.

Reward Your Child for Cooperation

An appointment like this is a big deal for a kid, so you might want to consider going out for a treat afterward. Be sure to let your child know it’s because he or she listened and cooperated with you and the lab technician. It’s a good idea not to reward or punish your child for legitimate feelings, such as fear and stress. Providing a reward lets your child know that you appreciate his or her willingness to cooperate despite having these feelings.

UPMC Western Maryland is happy to offer additional assistance to prepare your child for a lab visit if needed. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Contact us today. 

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