Much less routine testing is required for children than for adults, but there are times when children need pathology tests and a helping hand through them. A caring adult can help the child cope with any physical pain or discomfort as well as fear, anxiety, or emotional reactions that may occur as the sample is collected. Below are some general recommendations on helping children through these procedures as well as some specific tips on blood tests, urine and stool specimens, and throat culture sample collections.
This article is part of a collection of articles offering tips for taking medical tests. For more information that may be of value, see the articles on Coping with test pain, discomfort, and anxiety, Common tests, Tips on blood testing, and Tips to help the elderly through their pathology tests.
Prepare the child — Calmly explain how the sample will be collected and why, giving the child time to adjust to the idea before anyone touches his or her body.
Encourage rehearsing — At home or in a setting comfortable for the child, suggest ways that the child can rehearse. The child can practise having the sample taken using some of the techniques or pretend that a doll or stuffed toy is the patient.
Help the child put it in perspective — Use something the child has mastered or is familiar with to put a time to the part of the procedure the child may find overwhelming. For example, explain that this will be over as fast as you can climb the stairs at home or before you can sing a favourite nursery rhyme.
Plan a reward — Tell the child you will have a treat of some kind ready for them afterwards may be helpful, as long as you plan for this.