At Boston Children's Hospital, we understand that children and families may feel anxious or frightened when a child needs to have a blood test.
The following frequently asked question may help you ease your child’s anxiety around blood tests. This information also includes suggestions for ways to provide support and encourage your child during the blood test.
Should I keep the blood draw a secret?
Many parents are uncomfortable talking to their child about having a blood test. However, being honest with your child will help to foster a sense of trust between you, your child, and his/her healthcare team.
Tell your child what to expect in advance so he/she can prepare themselves for the experience and ask questions. This will also give you time to reassure your child that the blood test is necessary. Finally, telling children in advance will give you time to work together to develop a plan for coping that will work for both of you.
When and how should I tell my child?
Choose a quiet time to talk with your child. Use a calm and relaxed tone of voice. Use honest, simple explanations that your child will understand. It is important that your child understands that having this blood test is the right thing to do.
You could say, "The doctor needs to make sure that you are healthy, so we are going to have a blood test." Or, "We need to have a blood test to see what is making you feel sick."
One way to make the conversation more comfortable is to use words that are neutral.Try saying something like, "Some children say the test feels like a mosquito bite, or a quick pinch, and some children say they don’t feel the blood test."
Avoid statements like, "You won't feel anything." This can be misleading. Follow up with your child to make sure he/she understands what you have said. Ask questions. Have your child explain back what you have talked about, or describe the plan you have developed together.
How should I tell my child that he needs a blood test?
Be honest with your child about the blood test. Being honest will help to foster a sense of trust between you, your child, and his/her healthcare team
Tell your child about the blood test in advance so he/she has time to ask questions. Reassure your child that the blood test is necessary. Begin by using a calm, relaxed tone of voice. Give your child honest, simple explanations.
You could say, "The doctor needs to make sure that you are healthy, so we are going to have a blood test.” Or, "We need to have a blood test to see what is making you feel sick."
If your child asks if the blood test will hurt, be honest. You could say, "Some children say a blood draw feels like a mosquito bite, or a quick pinch, and some children don't feel the blood test at all." Tell your child that you can stay with him/her the entire time.
How do I react to my child's emotions?
Most children have some fear of needles. It is natural to feel uneasy about having a blood draw. If your child is feeling uneasy, you can work together to develop a plan to deal with his/her emotions. This will help your child feel more in control. Below are some tips to help your child feel more confident about the blood draw:
Assure your child that the phlebotomist (the person who draws their blood) cares about their comfort.
Avoid statements like, "Don't be nervous," or "Big boys don't cry." These statements could make your child feel ashamed if he/she does feel nervous or needs to cry.
Let your child know that you and the doctor feel that this blood test is necessary and important.
Never use threats such as, "You won't get a prize if you cry," or "I will leave the room if you don’t sit still." These comments could make your child feel worse about the situation by adding an additional fear (i.e. fear that Mom or Dad will leave them alone, or fear of not earning a prize)
How can I help my child?
Developing a plan allows kids to feel more in control and less frightened. Together, you and your child can decide if they would like to:
- Sit up or lie down
- Sit on your lap or by themselves
- Hold your hand
- Watch the blood draw
- Count to three
- Take slow, deep breaths
- Sing a song
- Squeeze a stress ball
- Go in on their own
- Look at a book
How can I help my child hold still?
Talk with the phlebotomist about the best position for your child. We always have a staff member available to help support your child’s hand or arm. This means you can concentrate on comforting your child.
What other things can I do to make the blood test easier for my child?
Parents are always welcome and encouraged to stay and help their child during the blood draw. A Child Life Specialist may be available to help your child during or before their blood test.
Ask your phlebotomist if a Child Life Specialist is available.