Thursday, February 12, 2009

Preparing A Child for a Blood Draw

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:

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


Col said...

Thanks for this. Very helpful. My son has had some horrible blood draws this year (FTT workup, followed by celiac disease tests), one where they needed 10 vials of blood! The GI specialist mentioned that they'll need to do repeat tests at his next visit in 3 months, and I'm already worried about it. I'm going to ask for the numbing cream, and if they don't do it, we'll find a different lab. I really think there's no need to put already sick children through these horrible experiences.

Connie said...

Great topic. We've been really lucky so far (!) with my son. A few things to add:
0 Call ahead to the facility and specify you need to have a highly experienced children's phlebologist: also take the time to explain why (prior bad experience); find out when they were in the office, and ask for them specifically by name.
o I've also bribed with a new toy dangling in front of them while the blood is being drawn. Other bribery is to promise a trip to buy a toy immediately after (limit $5).

Kristin said...

I have two nut-allergic kids. My advice is don't ask the lab for the numbing cream because sometimes they don't think kids need it or that it works very well. I asked my allergist for a prescription for the cream so I have my own. I then apply it at home with saran wrap and it works great with no hassles from the lab. I put it on both arms just in case. Also, with my scientificly minded 5-year-old, I act really excited that he is one of the only kids that will get to see his own blood come out of his body and go in a tube and it won't even hurt (because of the cream) and that it's going to be so amazing and that I'm jealous of him. That works fantasticly for him--not so much with my 3-year-old though.

Anonymous said...

Call the lab and see when the least busy time is. When they told us the best time to come is 6:30 or 7pm, we made a family outing of it. Had dinner, went to the lab, then out for ice cream cones. Being the only ones in the lab definitely alleviated some of the anxiety of waiting so long.
Also, I turned her head, and shielded her eyes so that she never even saw the needle. I knew that would freak her out. We just continued to look at some stickers she got (anything you can hold with one hand and look at) and I just kept talking and asking her questions about the stickers. She cried at the pinch of the needle, but she didn't have a freak out.

Anonymous said...

Great question. I do a lot of what has been mentioned but I also try to schedule for first thing in the morning. That way there is less time to dread it.

Kathryn @ Mamacado said...

Thanks for this post. I hope you don't mind I linked to it on my most recent blog post about how we made it through our toddler's RAST test!