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Medical tests can be scary for adults and for children. You can
help your child feel safe and calm during medical tests if you understand why
your child is having the test and remain calm yourself.
Talk to your doctor
without your child present about any concerns you have about the need for the
test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results may mean. To help you
understand the importance of the test for your child, complete the
medical test information formmedical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
Try to schedule the test or exam for a
time when your child won't be tired or hungry. Tell your child as much or as
little about the test that he or she is old enough to understand. And always be
honest. For instance, don't promise something that may or may not be true, such
as saying that the test won't hurt. Instead, you could say "I'll be nearby."
Ask your doctor about any medicines that your child may have
before the test to reduce his or her discomfort, such as
EMLA cream to numb the skin before a needle stick. At
the time of the test or exam, your child may not want to cooperate with the
doctor, and you may need to hold your child still so the test can be done.
Don't scold your child for being afraid or for fighting or crying about being
held still. If you act scared or upset, or if it becomes too difficult for you
to hold your child, your doctor may ask you to leave the room and then have an
assistant hold your child during the test. Do your best to comfort your child
after the test is done.
Some common tests that your child may
If your child is getting a test in a hospital, you may be able to ask for help from a child life expert, a pediatric psychologist, or a similar professional. This person can give you advice on how to help your child cope with procedures.
Babies respond to gentle
physical contact. They are comforted by a quiet and calm voice. Loud sounds or
sudden movements frighten them.
An older baby may be afraid of
strangers, so be sure to hold him or her in a favorite position or in a
position where he or she can clearly see you. Most babies like to be cuddled in
an upright position. Your doctor may need to hold your child for the exam or
Try using distraction to help your child during a test.
Bring your child's favorite toy or quietly sing a favorite song. If you cannot
hold your child, stand where he or she can see your face.
At 2 to 6 years of age, your
child probably asks "Why?" about new things.
Explain about the test or exam in simple words. You
don't need to give long answers or more information than your child can really
understand. Honestly answer your child's specific questions. If you do not know
an answer, it is okay to tell your child that you do not know.
Children ages 6 to
12 may be afraid of doctors. If your child is old enough to understand that he
or she needs this test, explain what will happen during the visit. Always be
honest with your child. If you want help, you could ask the doctor or nurse to
explain what is going to happen.
Teens also may be afraid when they go to see
a doctor. Explain what will happen during the visit and why. Be up-front and honest
with your child. If you want help, you could ask the doctor or nurse to explain
what is going to happen.
You may want to tell your child that even grown-ups
feel anxious about exams and tests. This can help your child understand that it
is normal to worry.
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
This American Academy of Pediatrics website has information for parents about childhood issues, from before the child is born to young adulthood. You'll find information on child growth and development, immunizations, safety, health issues, behavior, and much more.
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It
has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and
diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website
offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing
age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can
sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
Other Works Consulted
Brown TL (2011). Pediatric variations of nursing interventions. In MJ Hockenberry, D Wilson, eds., Wong's Nursing Care of Infants and Children, 9th ed, pp. 998–1051. St. Louis: Mosby.
Hockenberry MJ (2011). Communication and physical assessment of the child. In MJ Hockenberry, D Wilson, eds., Wong's Nursing Care of Infants and Children, 9th ed, pp. 117–178. St. Louis: Mosby.
Levetown M and the Committee on Bioethics (2008). Communicating with children and families: From everyday interactions to skill in conveying distressing information. Pediatrics, 121(5): e1441–e1460.
Uman LS, et al. (2006). Psychological interventions for needle-related procedural pain and distress in children and adolescents. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (4).
Current as of:
June 26, 2013
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics & Chuck Norlin, MD - Pediatrics
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