Blood Tests in Children – How to Prepare

As part of E’s stroke workup, and for her allergies and growth, she has needed to have blood draws done.  Here are some suggestions that have worked for us to minimize her discomfort and fear:

BEFORE the Procedure:

  • Talk about it beforehand, but not TOO far ahead.  One or two days before the procedure, let your child know what to expect –
    • Before the needle, a big rubber band that feels like a balloon will be wrapped around your child’s arm. Tell her that the band will feel tight like someone is squeezing her arm.
    • The lab technician will clean a small patch of skin on your child’s arm and this will feel cold.
    • The needle will be put into the arm and blood will go into the needle. Your child will feel a pinch or prick that can sting or hurt a little, or she may feel nothing at all.
    • Once the blood is taken, the needle comes out and a small bandage is put on the spot where the needle was.
  • Let your child practice taking blood from you and from her stuffies – guide her in the steps to follow.  A medical kit is a great tool to have!  If you go to a lab beforehand and explain, they may be willing to give you a syringe and arm elastic.
  • Tell your child why she is having blood taken
  • Let your child know that it is okay not to like what is going to happen.  Let her know that most people don’t like to have blood taken, but that it is necessary to check for ______.
  • Give your child some control where possible – ask her if she would like to bring a special toy, or what she would like to do afterwards to celebrate being done.
  • Let her know that it is very important to stay still so that it will hurt the least and won’t have to be redone.

The DAY OF the Procedure:

  • Hydrate!  Water, juice, soup, popsicles – anything!  The more liquids in your child, the plumper the veins; the plumper the veins, the easier they are to access.  We forgot this one time and it took them a lot of digging to get my daughter’s blood, which hurt her.
  • Apply an Emla patch or cream to the inner elbow 1 hour prior, following package directions.  This will numb the area, and she will only feel the needle if they have to dig for the vein – if you don’t follow the HYDRATE suggestion above….  Note that we tried Emla when E was 9 months old, and then they couldn’t find her veins.  So I would only recommend it for older children, on whom you can see their inner elbow veins quite nicely. Emla makes the veins go deeper, or some such thing.  Emla can be found at most pharmacies, and doesn’t require an Rx in Canada.  HIGHLY recommend the Emla for toddler+.


RIGHT BEFORE the Procedure:

  • Give her some sugar.  Something fast acting, like orange juice or chewy candies.  Studies have shown that elevated blood sugar can dull pain somewhat.  When E was a baby, I dipped her soother in water and then powdered sugar before her immunizations.  When she was older, I used skittles.
  • Remove the EMLA patch, and wipe clean with a wet washcloth.
  • Gently heat the area; this brings the veins up to the surface and enlarges them.  I heated a warm bag in the microwave at home, and brought it along wrapped in tea towels.  After washing off the Emla, I put the warm bag on her inner elbow for a few minutes.  Test it on your inner wrist first, remember that her arm is numb and you don’t want to burn her!!!
  • Butterfly IV lines (as shown above) hurt much less than a needle as they have a smaller diameter, and you don’t feel it move during changing of tubes; ask your technician to use one of these if possible.

DURING the Procedure:

Blood Test

  • Hold your child firmly, but not tightly, cooperating with the positioning the technician needs.  Block your child’s eyes from watching, either with your hand or head.
  • Distract your child if possible – a toddler may be distracted by a light-up or noisemaker; an older child may be distracted by an iPad or your phone.
  • Celebrate afterwards, even if it was unsuccessful, letting your child know how brave she was and how proud she must be of herself!  (This allows her to internalize her bravery, instead of you being proud of her which is external)

Many of these suggestions can also be used for routine childhood immunizations!  Although, the EMLA patches will be much more difficult to place accurately!  (We tried Emla for their 5 yr vaccinations and it didn’t seem to help at all)

Difficult experiences in life often challenge us to reflect on and examine our lives more deeply than we otherwise would.  Yes, there is grief, and anger, and regret, and frustration.  But there is also courage, and hope, and compassion, and purpose.  If you are struggling with purpose, and an emptiness inside, then it might be possible that God is challenging you right now, through this struggle, about your life’s calling.  Perhaps all the struggles I have faced simply had their purpose in leading YOU here – to my story.  Perhaps God allowed all these things to happen in my life so that YOU might be offered this chance to know Him.  If so, one heart won, and one soul saved for eternity is worth all the sacrifice, pain, and challenge.  YOU are worth it.

I strongly believe that in this life, nothing happens by accident or coincidence – things aren’t determined by fate or luck (good or bad).  I believe there is an overarching story – a beautiful picture of love, loss, and redemption – and that there is Someone who cares and is in control.  You are already a part of this story, whether you know or believe it or not.  While the end of the story has already been written, your own part lays open before you for you to choose your ultimate destiny.  Perhaps our coinciding struggles have been finely orchestrated to lead you to this one moment: The Bridge to God.


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Father of compassion, the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow into our lives, so also should the comfort of Christ overflow.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)

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