12 Tips for Better Doctor Visits with Kids

24 Jul


Photo by dmason

We have a lot of experience with doctor visits, so here are some tips that we’ve learned the hard way.  My present to you.

  • Try to schedule first thing in the morning. The doctor will (hopefully) still be on schedule, you’ll have shorter waiting times, and there will (usually) be fewer people in the waiting room sneezing and coughing all over you.
  • Dress your child in clothes that are easy to remove. Nuff said.
  • Bring another adult whenever possible. I know – hard to do. If my husband can’t come, I sometimes call up my sister or aunt who live close by. It’s a lot easier to listen to the doctor and ask questions when there’s someone else there to help with your child.
  • Bring a favorite blanket. Ask to lay it down on that cold scale they insist on laying a naked baby on. They can weigh the blanket first and subtract its weight from your baby’s. It’s also handy for covering the crinkly paper on the exam table, snuggling with, and for covering them up while you’re waiting for the doc.
  • Bring a change of clothes for child AND YOU. You can leave them in the car, but nobody wants to drive home wearing surprise vomit.
  • Bring something to catch said “surprise vomit.” We always carry two extra cloth diapers and a plastic bag, which wads up nicely in a corner of the diaper bag.
  • Bring crayons for coloring on exam table paper.  This is the one thing that helped Jenna to not be afraid of getting on the crinkly sounding/feeling paper.
  • Take a favorite stuffed animal or doll.  Have the nurse and/or doctor do “scary” procedures on special buddy first.
  • Ask for Sweet-Ease before shots or blood work.  Or you could bring your own in a medicine syringe.  This is simply sugar water, but we learned the trick from NICU nurses.  It calms and soothes due to an endorphin release.  Drug-free soothing.  Sweet (ha!)
  • Ask to hold child for procedures.  Jenna does a lot better with staying calm when she sits on my lap facing outward with my arms around her.  This works great for BP, blood work, shots, checking ears/nose/throat – – just about anything.
  • Buy a toy doctor kit and “practice” at home beforehand.  This has worked wonders for us.  Try the Parents Little MD in carrying case ($20) available at Target or Usborne’s “Going to the Doctor” kid kit available here (currently out-of-stock, but will be back soon), which comes with a book ($16).  We used the Usborne kit and book.
  • Ask for skin anesthetic to numb skin before IVs or blood work.  This is simply a lotion or gel that’s applied to the skin to numb it.  We didn’t even know this was an option until they just DID it in the ER for us.  Maybe not a necessity for everyone (maybe not always available?), but any pokes have been super-traumatic for Jenna and have almost always led to vomiting.  We’re up for anything to avoid that scenario.                 ** UPDATE **  From Dr. Sears:  Apparently this cream is available over-the-counter, but is somewhat expensive.  He recommends that, if you buy it, you wait to apply it until at the doctor’s office so the nurse can show you where to put it (or you’ll be numbing the wrong spot).  He says he’s not sure it’s worth the cost and trouble and suggests simply firmly rubbing the injection site for a few minutes before the injection.  He also says that breastfeeding during shots or bloodwork has been shown to decrease discomfort in babies!!

Let me know the tips and tricks you use in the comments!


Posted by on July 24, 2008 in Parenting tips, Special Needs


15 responses to “12 Tips for Better Doctor Visits with Kids

  1. Ann at mommysecrets

    July 24, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Great tips!

  2. psychmamma

    July 24, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Thanks Ann!

  3. denise @ EatPlayLove

    July 25, 2008 at 1:17 am

    Another great appointment time is the first one after lunch, easy in and easy out! Great post!

  4. psychmamma

    July 25, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Great addition, Denise! Much like morning, first thing after lunch should be great. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Ryan Leigh

    July 25, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    We take crayons for the exam table paper – and if I forget, I can usually find a few in the waiting room. On our last visit, I held my daughter in my lap for the entire exam – we have a great ped who sensed that this would make things go much easier, and offered at the start to just have her sit with me. And, the easy-off, easy-on clothes are a must. The skin anesthetic isn’t as popular around here – I couldn’t even get it at the hospital when I asked for it…. They did have it when I went in the hospital to have my older child – and from experience, it works great!

  6. psychmamma

    July 25, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Ryan –

    Thanks for your comments! I’m adding an update about the skin anesthetic from a book I read by Dr. Sears.

  7. Sharon

    July 26, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    My daughter went for her kindergarten physical exam and injections. We knew there were six immunizations scheduled for the visit. We used numbing cream, LMX, on her upper arms and forearm (TB test) prior to the injections. She winced at the DPT and MMR injections but shed not one tear. I highly recommend numbing cream to reduce tears and anxiety all around.

  8. psychmamma

    July 26, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    Sharon –

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I definitely agree – less anxiety for kiddos equals less anxiety for parents. Six at once! Yikes! I’m cringing, and I’m a “grown-up!”

  9. marci

    July 27, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    my son was a micropreemie, and while he’s doing really, really well, he’s still on lots of medicines. this started as a way for *me* to keep track of everything when i first came home, but the doctors and nurses *love* it.

    i keep a list of allergies, what he’s on, times & doses, what he eats, how i mix his formula, oxygen dosage, all of those things. i keep it updated with changes (which can happen frequently, since medicine is dosed by weight) and print off several copies to give them every doctor visit. it sure saves me trying to recite everything every time, and saves them having to write it, too!

  10. psychmamma

    July 27, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Marci –

    Great addition to this list! I also keep all of this information organized (see my “Try This Tuesday” post), and we take it to the doctor each time. I should have thought to add it to the list! Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Heather

    August 1, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Ugh, I so wish I would have read this yesterday. Oh well. I had actually seen some Dr. Sears tips and used them with my first child. Number 2, poor little guy, has to deal with mommy mush brain. I forget even more than with the first.
    If you ever have time again in your whole life, take a peek at my most recent post (it’s about the bloodwork thing) I really wish I would have had some of that numbing stuff….

  12. psychmamma

    August 1, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    Heather –

    SO sorry about your bad experience with bloodwork. We’ve had our share too, and it’s always amazing how Jenna recovers must faster than me, even though I didn’t get poked!

  13. Kathy

    December 22, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Good idea about bringing a blanket to lay on the scale. I would like to add though, that anything that comes into contact with that kind of frequent use medical equipment should be laundered immediately. I know that we disinfect between patients, and use the paper etc….. but you would be amazed at what germs are still there.

    Well written article!

  14. Staciet

    December 22, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    Great list! Here from Bridges. I have 28 weeker twins with some lingering issues, so I visit a lot of doctors, too. The only thing I suggest is to ensure that doctors/nurses wash their hands or put on gloves before touching your child (ie. watch them do it). They are only human and can forget. I have caught a couple and have always had a good response! 🙂

  15. Tracy

    January 22, 2009 at 1:29 am

    I just found your blog and am sorry to see you decided to quit blogging! I have a child with a chronic health condition and I LOVE this list you have posted. I called today for a prescription of Emla (sp) cream to have on hand for frequent blood draws/injections and will be taking crayons on our very next visit to the doctor (next week). Thank you so much for posting this, it really did help me today (and I really needed to feeling I was DOING something-it’s been a rough week:)


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