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Helping Kids Deal With Injections and Blood Tests

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Kids with diabetes are the ones getting blood tests and insulin injections, but they can be a challenge for parents, too.

Your child's diabetes health care team will help you both learn to manage the disease and minimize the pain and anxiety surrounding injections and blood tests. The team also may tell you about testing technologies and medicines that offer the most convenience and least discomfort.

Together, you and the diabetes health care team can find the most comfortable solutions available.

Dealing With Feelings

When kids are very young, blood tests and injections can be especially difficult. A parent needs to enforce diabetes management, which can include regular testing and giving shots to a child who cries, resists, and gets angry.

Learning how to manage diabetes is a process. Even if your child has been cooperating with blood tests and injections for a while, a new fear or emotional issue may crop up that could make a test or shot difficult.

To help manage feelings about diabetes, including anger, frustration, and fear about testing and injections, let your child know that it's OK to be worried about or dislike the shot or test. Talk openly about these fears. Kids need to be able to express their frustration and know that it's OK to be upset.

It also can help to describe the need for injections and blood testing in kid terms. For example, you might explain that the shots and blood tests help keep your child feeling good throughout the day — and that not getting them could mean having to stay home from school or miss fun activities because of diabetes problems.

Treating tests and shots in the same matter-of-fact way that you would treat any other part of the daily routine also might help. And many kids like to have a sense of ownership and control of diabetes. Instead of feeling like victims of the tests and injections, they'll feel more in charge of their own health.

Young kids might select a needle, read the glucose meter test result aloud, choose the spot or finger for testing, or press the plunger on the syringe. Encourage your child to take more control gradually as age allows — eventually, kids are ready to handle testing and injections on their own (although parents should continue to supervise).

If your child argues or cries, you might be tempted to skip an injection or test just this once. But you shouldn't negotiate blood tests or shots. They're necessary and not optional. The first time you're talked out of one, you'll set a precedent that your child won't forget.

Sometimes, you'll need to just do the injection or test, even if your child is upset and uncooperative. Afterward, you might reward yourselves with something fun like playing a game or reading, and then talk to your child about why he or she was so upset.

If your child is especially fearful of injections and every test or shot is a battle, your doctor or a counselor or mental health professional can help you address this.

Having both parents (or one parent plus another caregiver) involved in the diabetes management process will help keep treatment consistent and also provide support as you deal with struggles over shots and blood tests.

Making Injections and Blood Tests Easier

These general tips can help make testing and injections easier:

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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