When Little Guy was diagnosed with food allergies around 4 months old, his allergist encouraged me to get a blood draw so we could track the IgE (immunoglobulin E) levels. I waited over 2 years to actually do it because:
- I knew it would be rather traumatic to find a vein in those chubby little arms. Little Guy used to cry just walking into the doctor's office for a well check-up. And haircuts? Well, he didn't have a haircut for about 6 months since he'd cry at every one. So, I wanted to avoid a blood draw at all costs!
- A blood test would be helpful to see if we could do a food challenge for anything (i.e. - maybe he could tolerate baked eggs). One allergist said she'd wait until around age 3 to do a food challenge so the child can accurately describe any allergic reactions he may be feeling (i.e. - itchy mouth, throat etc.). So, I felt I could hold off on the blood test until around age 3!
- Blood tests can be just as inaccurate as skin prick tests. His hives on the skin prick tests and previous reactions to the foods were enough to show evidence of a significant food allergy without needing the blood test.
10 things that worked for us (for our 2 year old toddler):
- Research pediatric-focused labs: I asked my two allergy mom Facebook groups about great pediatric-focused labs and/or technicians in our area. They told me about good AND bad experiences with labs. Our insurance covers LabCorps, so I finally decided to go to the technician who was the most gentle with me for past blood tests, and whose office is in a central location with (I assumed) many pediatric patients.
- Talk about the blood test in the car on the way over - NOT before (reminder - this worked for our 2 year old. It's probably best to talk about this with older children ahead of time): I made no mention of the blood test until we got in the car. I told him he was going to take a short trip with mommy and daddy, and when we were in the car I said: "We're going to the lab for a quick test. A nice lady will put a big rubber band on your arm, then wash the middle of your arm with a little cotton ball and water, then you might feel some pressure". I'm not sure "pressure" was the best word to use, but I thought it was less severe than anything else!
- Do not mention any scary "doctor" focused words: We never said "blood", "pinch", "pain", "needle", etc. I knew he'd never even walk in the door if he envisioned anything negative. I also didn't want him to associate this with the doctor as I hope our next well check-up will be less stressful!
- Wear a shirt with sleeves (long or short): He wore a long sleeved shirt which could easily be pushed up to his shoulder. The lab tech put the "rubber band" on top of his shirt to make it a little less uncomfortable and not pinch the skin.
- Bring activities and books for the waiting room: Even though we had an appointment we had to wait over an hour. *SIGH* Our allergist wrote Quest lab codes and we go to LabCorps. The LabCorps tech wasn't especially astute in figuring out which codes to use, so it was a long and stressful wait. Thank goodness for the apple chips, books and Highlights magazine my Mom suggested I bring!
- Watch cartoons: We intended to have my son watch cartoons on my husband's phone while the blood test was happening. According to this article, kids feel less pain while watching cartoons during blood draws. Makes sense. We actually didn't have enough "hands" to do it since I was holding Little Guy in my lap and my husband was propping up his arm.
- Bring another adult: My husband came along to the appointment to help hold Little Guy. My parents watched Little Girl so we could both focus only on Little Guy that morning.
- Drink extra fluids before you go: I read that this may help pump up the vein and make it easier to find. Not sure if it helped, but we did it anyway!
- Offer something to look forward to afterwards: We had a present for him in the car from my aunt which came the day before. A CUTE and love-able puppy stuffed animal. I actually didn't know what was in the package or I may have brought the puppy in with us for comfort!
- Let your child cry: Research says that you shouldn't tell your child not to cry. They're allowed to cry. The blood draw probably does hurt. Telling them not to cry just undermines their feelings. Just reassure them that you're with them and they're okay.
- Role play: We role played with my son for at least 2 weeks before and the morning of his 2 year regular doctor check-up. It didn't work as he cried the whole time. So, I didn't try it for the blood test. BUT maybe this will work for you!
For those who have gone through this already, what's been your experience with blood tests for children? Do you have any other tips?
Finally - here are some resources I used to figure out how to prepare for our blood test in case they're useful to anyone else going through the same thing!