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January 25, 2006


Question from Edwardsville, Illinois, USA:

My daughter has a phobia about having her blood drawn. She gives herself her shots with no problems and manages her diabetes very well, however, when it comes to having her blood drawn, she just goes nuts. Topical pain relief is not the answer. She has a real fear. The endocrinologists I have called just do not want to deal with this problem. Do you have any suggestions?


I consulted with two of our child life specialists who spend a lot of time helping our patients cope with laboratory procedures. They said that when they work with a younger patient (between six and nine years old) who has a phobia of needles, that the typical distraction techniques that they use with most patients do not work as effectively because the child is so focused on the procedure. Instead, they recommend using visualization and guided imagery techniques. Our child life specialists have recommended the article Relaxation, Guided Imagery, and Visualization Techniques for information about guiding someone through visualization during a procedure. It might be helpful for this patient and a parent to practice visualization of the I.V. blood draw going well (not being stressful) while at home in a comfortable setting, one to four days before the actual I.V. blood draw. If these techniques do not work, I would recommend that you make an appointment with a counselor (psychologist or social worker) that specializes in anxiety disorders and phobias to work on this issue.

Additional comments from Dr. Jill Weissberg-Benchell:

I would contact a psychologist who specializes in working with children with chronic illness. They will be able to teach your daughter strategies she can use to overcome her fear.

Additional comments from Shirley Goodman, diabetes nurse specialist:

With other children, and for that matter adults, with needle phobias, working with a mental health provider can sometimes be successful in alleviating the symptoms and problems around blood testing. I would encourage you to speak with your endocrinologist or pediatrician about a referral to someone in mental health with experience in needle phobia.