Having a young child undergo a medical procedure is a stressful experience for children and parents alike. One of the best ways to support your child is to prepare them for the experience ahead of time. Preparing children for experiences lessens anxiety and increases coping skills.
Sometimes doctors need to check a person’s blood to help take care of them. This is usually done by a nurse or a phlebotomist (which is a special technician whose job is to draw blood). Children may have several misconceptions about blood draws—starting of course with the word “draw.” They may think that someone will use their blood to draw a picture. They also might be concerned about the phrase “take some blood.” Where are you taking it? Will I have any left? Needle sticks feel invasive to a young child’s emerging sense of autonomy.
First a doctor or nurse will check the hand or arm to find a vein to put the special tube in. They might put a tight band on the arm to help see the veins. . They will clean the skin with a wipe that is cold and wet. A doctor or nurse will use a tiny needle to help the tube go into the vein. This will feel like a poke and might hurt. Then they will undo the tight band and attach a tube to the needle to collect the blood. When they have finished they will slide the needle out which might feel like a pinch. The spot left on the skin might bleed slightly. A band-aid will help the spot to heal.
We recommend prepping your child for a blood draw by using a social story. This social story is a suggested script for you to read with your child. Please modify to fit your child’s needs. Some children like lots of details to help them cope ahead with a challenging situation while others need less detail and more reassurance. You know your child best—use this as a resource and guide to help you prepare them for a healthcare experience.
What Happens When You Get Your Blood Drawn
Doctors do lots of things to check people to see if their bodies are healthy or if they need some medicine. One way doctors can check a person is to look at a little bit of their blood. Blood is inside your body. When doctors check a person’s blood, they take a little bit out to look at it. Bodies are always making more blood so it is okay to have a little taken out. If your doctor needs to check your blood they might call it a “blood draw.” This is another way of saying “take out blood” and no one is going to use your blood to draw a picture.
Your blood is inside your veins. Veins are the tiny tubes inside a body that move blood from the heart and lungs and all around the body. Sometimes you can see your veins. Look on your hands or arms for the blue lines under your skin. These are your veins. To get a little bit of someone’s blood, a needle is poked into your vein and blood goes through the needle and into a special tube.
First, they might pat your hand to make the veins easier to see. They might even tie a special band around your arm to help. It will feel really tight. It might be uncomfortable. It will be taken off once the little needle is in your vein. Then your skin will be cleaned with a little wipe. It will feel cold and wet. They will count, “1, 2, 3”…and then you will feel a little poke from a tiny needle. Blood goes through the needle to special tubes. When the tubes are full, they will gently slide the needle out. It might feel like a pinch when it comes out and there might be a little bit of blood at the spot where the tube was—you will get a band-aid to put on it while the spot heals.
You might feel scared when you get your blood checked. That is okay. There are things you can do to help yourself feel better—hold your parent’s hand, hug a stuffed animal, have your parent sing you a song. Your mom and dad can help you not feel scared. When it is done, you can be proud that you did something hard.
Note: This general information is about a common medical procedure. It is not meant to replace information provided by your health care provider. It is aimed to give you a basic understanding of what procedures are like, how your child might think and feel about them, and what to say prepare your child for medical experiences. Adapt these to fit the specific medical procedure and needs of your child.
Let Them Fly!