Preparing Your Child for Blood Collection

What is blood work?

Most children will need blood work at some time. When a child is sick, or as part of ongoing treatment, his/her blood may need to be looked at in a laboratory. This is called blood work. To get the blood, a Medical Laboratory Assistant (MLA) at the hospital/clinic will insert a needle into one of the child’s veins.

What can you and your child expect?

Usually, it is best to tell your child ahead of time that he/she is going to have blood work. When a child knows what to expect, he/she will probably feel less worried about what will happen.

What can parents can do to help?

What you can do to help your child prepare for blood work depends on how old your child is. What helps a very young child is often different from what helps an older child.

• Your reaction to a stressful situation can influence your child's reaction.
For example, if you show that you are worried about your child getting a needle, your child may become more worried. If you are relaxed about your child getting a needle, your child may feel more relaxed.

• Distracting your child is helpful.
Distraction is usually helpful for any child. The best way to distract a child during a needle depends on the child’s age. Bring your child*s favorite toy to the hospital/clinic. He/she can hold the toy while blood is being taken.

• What parents can say to help!
The words you use to tell your child what is going to happen are important. Use words that will reassure him/her. Let him/her know what is going to happen in words he/she can understand. Talk to him/her about what she will see, feel, hear, and smell. To help your child understand how long it takes to give blood, say “getting the needle is faster than a commercial on TV.”

How can I explain what will happen?

(1) Before the needle, a big rubber band that feels like a balloon will be wrapped around your child's arm. Tell him/her that the band will feel tight like someone is squeezing his/her arm.

(2) The MLA will clean a small patch of skin on your child's arm and this will feel cold.

(3) The needle will be inserted into the arm and blood will flow into the tube. Your child will feel a pinch or prick that can sting or hurt a little, or he/she may feel nothing at all.

(4) Once the blood is taken, the needle comes out and a small bandage is put on the spot where the needle was.

Other helpful hints

  • Tell your child why he/she is having blood taken.

  • Children feel better when they have some control. You can help your child feel she has control by giving him/her choices. For example, ask him/her what she would like to take to the hospital/clinic. You can also ask if he/she would like to play with a toy or hear a favorite story while blood is taken.

  • Let your child know that it is okay not to like what is happening. It is good to let your child express how he/she feels. It is also a good idea to tell your child that his/her “most important job” is to stay still while she gets the needle.

  • Some children worry that they will not have enough blood after some has been taken from their arm. You can tell your child that only a very small amount of blood is taken. You can also tell him/her that her body makes new blood all the time.

The Use of EMLA® Cream (lidocaine 2.5% and prilocaine 2.5%)

(1) Emla cream is a dermal anaesthetic and helps numb the skin from the pain of the needle during your child's blood test.

(2) Emla can be used for children in all age groups.

(3) Emla is available at the pharmacy and does not require a physician prescription.

(4) Please speak to your healthcare practitioner for further information on Emla.

(5) Please consult the Emla package inserts for proper use of Emla.

Please note: Emla cream is not provided by Laboratory Outpatient Services.