Sunday, February 7, 2010

FYI: Questions You Should Ask Before Getting Your Infant's Blood Drawn

From the time my daughter was about three months old, she’s had blood in her stool. It’s not every diaper and not even every week, but it consistently reappears. Her pediatrician and a G.I. specialist have almost entirely ruled out the possibility that it is anything to worry about. Even so, they recommended we get her blood drawn to test for and rule out any blood clotting disorders.

I’m not the type of parent who immediately goes along with what a doctor tells me. I like to do my research, weigh the pros and cons, and then make a decision. If I decide to go ahead with what the doctor recommended, I try to make the experience be as pleasant and worthwhile as possible.

I decided I was alright with my daughter having her blood drawn, but I called different outpatient clinics at hospitals to decide where I wanted it to happen. I came up with a list of questions that I asked each location.

If your infant needs to get his blood drawn, you might find the following list of questions helpful:

  • Do you have a pediatric phlebotomist at your lab?

A pediatric phlebotomist is someone who has been trained in drawing blood from infants. They are skilled at finding their veins (this can be very tricky sometimes), and also are great at keeping them calm.

  • What size of needles do you use?

Only a butterfly needle should be use on an infant, and the nurse should preferably use the smallest size of butterfly needle.

  • What are your pain management options?

Whether you use the topical EMLA cream or dip your baby’s pacifier in Sweet Ease, there are ways to make the experience non-traumatic for her.

  • From which part of the body do you draw the blood?

Depending on the size of the baby and the tests that are being done, the blood may be taken from the arm, finger, heel, or even ankle.

  • How many attempts do you make before giving up?

I didn’t like the idea of my baby being repeatedly stuck with a needle, no matter how small it is or what type of pain relief was used. The place we ended up going said they would make two attempts to get in the vein. If both attempts failed, they would bring in another nurse, who would also make two attempts. That makes four attempts total. When you want zero attempts, four might seem like a lot, but it sounded very reasonable to me.

  • Who holds the baby while the blood is being drawn?

Some labs have the parents hold the baby, others have nurses hold the baby with the parent standing very nearby. You should go with what you are comfortable with.

  • How much blood do you draw?

It’s nice to prepare yourself for how many little vials the nurses will need to fill before the blood draw is over.

If you are like me, having information and being prepared makes unpleasant experiences like this much less nerve-racking and much easier to handle.

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