Throat cultures can be intimidating to a child, but they do not need to be traumatic. The procedure causes only a moment of discomfort (a gagging reflex) as the swab makes contact. Explaining the procedure to the child and giving the child some control and coping methods helps, both in getting through the moment and for the next time.
Throat cultures can be challenging because you have to have the child's trust. A child who is fearful and does not trust the nurse may refuse to open his or her mouth, which can raise the stress levels and anxiety of everyone in the room. The encounter is more difficult if the child has had a bad experience previously. Perhaps the child was held down or had the tongue depressor forced into the mouth. It is harder for the child to trust the medical personnel after an incident in which he or she was forced.
To put the child at ease, try showing the child a swab, giving the child a swab to hold and touch, and explaining that the swab, which will be put into the mouth to collect a sample from the throat, is similar to a big Q-tip cotton swab like they have at home.
Health practitioners may have other techniques that they have found helpful, such as havingthe child open his or her mouth and scream one time loudly. The scream pushes the tongue down, eliminating the need for a tongue depressor, and the swab can be quickly inserted and removed.
If you anticipate a difficult time, ask what steps can be taken to avoid a struggle and create a non-intimidating situation for your child.