By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Most of the time, taking a history and performing a physical examination provide the information a doctor needs to assess how a child is doing or to comprehend the root of an illness. As informative as the history and examination can be, sometimes more information is needed to fully understand what's going on. Although most are rarely needed, there are literally hundreds of laboratory tests and other studies that can be ordered. Many times the right test will help a doctor make a diagnosis or eliminate a possibility.

Routine testing for children is not done as often as it is done for adults. However, when children do need to undergo medical tests, they need love and support of their parents or other caretakers to help them through the physical pain or discomfort as well as any fear, anxiety or emotional reactions that may occur as the test is undertaken. Helping your young child prepare for a medical test or procedure can reduce anxiety, increase cooperation, and help develop coping skills.

Following are some tips on helping your child deal with medical/laboratory tests:

  • Before the test, be prepared yourself that your child probably will cry and that preparation may not change the fact that your child will feel some discomfort or pain. However, if you avoid talking about the impending test and then if the lab technician begins the actual test; your child might be startled and develop a fear of laboratories or doctors.
  • Use dramatic play in demonstrating what will happen during the test and in
    discovering your child's concerns. The child can practice some techniques at home or pretend with a doll or stuffed toy as the patient.
  • Explain the child in easy to understand language how the sample will be collected and why. This gives the child enough time to get used to the idea before the actual test is undertaken.
  • Make sure your child understands the exact body part involved and that the procedure will be limited to that area.
  • Help the child put it in a perspective. Tell the child how it is just a temporary thing and how in a little while the child will be safely back home watching his/her favorite television program.
  • Do not use abstract or vague terms when talking about terms. Also avoid using words that have multiple meanings at it will confuse the child.
  • It often helps if you offer the child a reward such as an extra bed-time story or promise to bake chocolate chip cookies after the test is successfully over to distract the child and help him/her look forward to something nicer instead of the painful test.
  • It is natural for the child to be upset during the test and let the child cry, yell or scream during the test, in spite of all the preparation that you have made. Do not scold the child later on for crying even though you spent so much time in preparing them for the test.
  • Parents are strongly encouraged to stay and help their child during a blood test. The parent can be face to face with the child, while the child is laying down, providing physical comfort, distraction, and assistance.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,