Having to deal with frequent blood draws is one of the worst parts of having a child with congenital hypothyroidism. When they are infants, it’s heart breaking to watch them cry in pain as the phlebotomist squeezes droplets of blood into the little vials. Then, they become toddlers and are old enough to know what’s going on, which may mean that they freak out when you pull in the parking lot of the hospital or lab. This phase lasts until they are 3 or 4 usually. As they get older, though, it does get easier as they are old enough to understand what’s going on and why they need the blood test. Until then, here are my Top 5 Tips for Surviving Blood Draws.
1) Relax: No matter what the age, kids are perceptive. They can sense when you are anxious, and in turn, will also be anxious. You know what to expect. You need to remain calm. Getting worked up by anticipating their negative response to the blood draw will not help. I spent a lot of time sitting in lab waiting rooms. I can always spot the moms (and kids) who are going to have a tough time. Positive self talk is a good thing here – breathe deeply and tell yourself that this is going to be a good experience. I once heard someone say “Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become actions.” I’m not sure who said it, but it’s a good reminder and applies to parenting as well.
2) Hydrate: Blood is about 50% water, so the more water you drink, the plumper your veins are and the easier it is for the phlebotomist to find your veins and draw blood. With babies, make sure they feed well the day of the draw and perhaps offer breast or bottle while you are waiting for the heel warmer to work. Nursing or feeding while you wait will also calm you both down. With older children, simply offer plenty of water the day of the draw. If they aren’t big water drinkers, maybe try 50% juice/50% water to be sure they are getting some liquids in.
3) Numb: We have found that EMLA (lidocaine cream) to be a lifesaver. Your pediatrician can write you a prescription for this and show you how to use it. We cover the EMLA cream with Tegaderm after we apply the cream. I have also heard that you can use an EMLA patch or also try a numbing spray. There is a product called the Buzzy that I have heard some folks have used with success. It vibrates and supposedly causes a distraction and the stick doesn’t hurt as badly. Although, I have heard some parents say that their lab doesn’t allow them to use it, so I would ask your lab if they allow it prior to purchasing one.
4) Soothe: Following the blood draw, offer something to soothe your child. For infants, offer breast or bottle to soothe. For toddlers, bring a wrapped present from the dollar store for them to open as soon as they are done. For older children, let them pick what treat they want. My boys usually want milkshakes from McDonald’s or frozen yogurt with dozens of toppings. Also, many hospital labs have treats for the children. The lab we go to will give my boys a sticker and a stuffed animal when they are super brave. Over time, they will begin to associate the draw with the treat afterward more than the “stick”.
5) Strategize: Figure out your weak points in the process and what stresses you out the most and address those issues. Do not go to the lab when you are on a tight schedule. If you generally don’t handle the lab visit well with your little one, bring reinforcements. Have a friend or family member come with you for backup – let them drive and deal with the hassle of finding a parking place. You just concentrate on you and your kiddo. With older kids, don’t go when they are tired or worn out. If you find a lab with a phlebotomist you love, find out what their schedule is and when the lab is least busy and go for the draw then.
Hope you find these tips helpful! I’d love for you to share your tips on how to make blood draws go smoothly for children with congenital hypothyroidism.
By Blythe Clifford