Unfortunately, blood work is a necessary part of treating mental illness. So getting creative and using all the resources you have is essential. Today, we needed to draw blood to prepare for the MRI, as well as monitor the effects of his current medication. In preparation for this lab work, we worked with his psychiatrist and came up with a plan to use 2 new medications to improve his experience.
I have to admit, after our positive experience today, I’m disappointed that we didn’t know about these medications before. I seriously had no idea that we could numb his skin with a cream and with a single pill we could calm his anxiety. It dumbfounds me that these incredible tools have been at our fingertips, yet we didn’t even know they existed.
So for all you parents who dread hearing the words, “We need to do some lab work”, here are some amazing tools you can ask your psychiatrist about, along with a few creative ideas of my own.
First, to help ease our son’s anxieties, our psychiatrist prescribed Ativan (Lorazepam) to be taken an hour before the lab work is done. This helps to relax him and calm down the anxiety that usually brings on the rage. Today was our first time using it. Our doctor described it as having the effect of “being drunk on tequila, it should make him feel really good and relaxed”. There’s a rare chance that your child may respond with more anger, “like an angry drunk”, as she described it, so it’s recommended to do a trial run prior to the lab work to make sure it’s safe.
I was pleased to see that he responded perfectly to the dose we gave him. He appeared calm and peaceful without looking overly tired or acting drunk. Thank goodness!
Next, we applied a topical cream prescribed by our psychiatrist called EMLA (Lidocaine-Prilocaine). It’s like novocaine for the skin. It numbs the area so he doesn’t feel the needle stick him. To apply it, we put a pile of it on his inner arm, then wrapped this area in saran wrap to keep it in place. It takes about 30 minutes to have the full effect.
Once we got into the waiting room, I remembered a new app that I downloaded on my iPhone called Binaural Beats (It’s free!). It has a selection of sounds to influence your brain to concentrate or relax. So I immediately put headphones on him while he waited. He liked it so much that he listened to it through the whole procedure.
Finally, once he was in the chair, I took his opposite hand and gave him a hand massage while I lead him through deep breathing. I wasn’t sure if this helped him, but afterwards, he mentioned that the hand massaged helped him focus on something that felt good, taking his mind off the needle in the other arm.
I have to say, I was totally impressed on how well he did. Not once did he try to run or cry, I think I even saw a small smile when I complimented him on how well he was doing.
I can’t say what one thing worked the best, but I know the medication helped keep him calm. He mentioned in the morning that he wasn’t as scared as last time since he knew he could take medication to help. As for everything else, it was icing on the cake.
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If you’ve discovered your own tips for surviving shots with an anxious child, please share, I can always use a few extra tricks in my bag!