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Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests

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Much less routine testing is required for children than for adults, but there are times when children need medical tests and a helping hand through them. A caring grownup can help the child cope with any physical pain or discomfort as well as any fear, anxiety, or emotional reactions that may occur as the sample is collected. Below are some general recommendations on helping children through these medical procedures as well as some specific tips on blood, urine and stool specimens, and throat culture sample collections.

This article is part of a collection of articles offering tips for taking medical tests that includes Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests. Sources used in the development of this article are included in the Coping with Test Pain article.


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 the child can rehearse. The child can practice some techniques at home or pretend with a doll or stuffed toy as the patient, suggests Joy Goldberger, MS, CCLS, education coordinator for the child life department at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Baltimore, Maryland.

Help the Child Put It in Perspective — Relate the part of the procedure the child may find overwhelming to something the child has mastered or is familiar with, suggests Goldberger. For example, explain that this will be over as fast as you climb stairs at home or before we can sing the Barney song, or this will be over in the time it take Mark McGwire to hit a homerun.

Plan a Reward — Telling the child you will have a treat of some kind afterward is often helpful, suggests Goldberger.

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