Preparation for blood tests
FB bloods, FBE or FBC blood test – what do they all mean?
FBE or FB is short for a full blood examination (but it’s also known as a full blood count or FBC, or a complete blood count or CBC). This blood test can be part of a routine health check, or to check for, diagnose or keep an eye on a variety of conditions. The test looks at the number, types and sizes of different cells in the blood.
What happens in a blood test?
An FBE is done on a sample of blood taken by a needle from a vein in the arm or by a finger prick. Some kids like to watch the nurse doing the test, others might need distraction with a book, toys, talking to them or watching a movie on your phone. You can sit younger kids on your lap or hold their hand. When it‘s over, tell them they’ve done a good job.
Tips for preparing your child for a blood test.
- Explain that it will involve a needle prick to take a small amount of blood. If they ask ‘will it hurt?’ be truthful. Again, you can say ‘some children say it hurts a bit, others aren’t so bothered’. However, parents or carers can apply numbing cream to the relevant area of hands, inner elbows or fingers before going to hospital or a pathology service. For kids already in a hospital ward or in the emergency room, a nurse or doctor can apply numbing cream before the blood test, if necessary. Numbing cream is applied either 30 or 60 minutes before the test, depending on the brand of cream used.
- Watching a video together showing what happens in a blood test helps them know what to expect. See A child’s guide: IV blood tests and A child’s guide: Finger prick – two videos from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne.
What happens in an MRI?
What’s an MRI?
A type of medical imaging that uses a magnetic field and radio waves to take pictures inside the body. It provides more detailed images of soft tissue (e.g. organs, muscles and ligaments) than X-rays or ultrasound. It’s painless and involves lying on a table which slides into a scanner that’s like a tunnel. Kids need to stay very still during an MRI. Paediatric hospitals have MRI scanners with built in DVD players so they can watch their favourite movie during the scan. Or they can listen to music.
Kids under five, kids with disabilities or with additional medical needs may need sedation. A parent or carer can stay in the room with them during the MRI. If the hospital has a Child Life Therapist, kids can usually visit an MRI facility beforehand, along with the therapist, as part of their preparation for the scan.
There are no known long term side effects from an MRI.
You need to remove anything made of metal from your child, e.g. jewellery or watches, before the MRI. Your child will usually need to change into a cotton gown. Some kids may need a cannula (like a tiny straw) placed in the back of their hand or elbow. This allows medical staff to inject a contrast dye to help doctors see extra parts of the scan. Kids can have a local anaesthetic cream on their skin to reduce discomfort.
How long does an MRI take?
This varies depending on the type of scan and the part of the body being scanned. Some may take 20 minutes, others make take 60 or even 90 minutes. It’s a good idea to check with staff beforehand.
How long does an MRI of the brain take?
Usually around 15 to 30 minutes, although some can take up to 40 minutes.
Tips for preparing your child for an MRI.
- Let them know that an MRI won’t hurt and won’t touch them. They might hear weird noises like clicks and bangs but this is just the sound of the machine taking pictures.
- Help them choose a DVD they’d like to watch (if a DVD player is available), or music they’d like to listen to during the scan.
- If possible, get them to practise lying still for a few minutes – try ‘let’s pretend you’re a statue’, ‘let’s pretend you’ve been frozen’, or have a competition – ‘let’s see who can stay still the longest’, and time how long each one of you can stay still.
- Let them know you can stay in the room with them while they have the scan.
- Check out this video for kids from the Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne on what it’s like to have an MRI. You and your child can watch it together.
CT scan v. MRI – what’s the difference?
A CT or CAT scan (short for computed tomography scan) uses X-rays and digital computer technology to provide detailed images of the body including bone, blood vessels and soft tissue. An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to take images of soft tissue. Both CT scans and MRIs can are used for diagnosis and planning treatment. MRIs are used for conditions that a CT scan can’t detect.
Fasting for surgery – what parents need to know
Why do you need to fast before surgery?
You need to have an empty stomach when you have surgery so it’s important to avoid food and drink for a few hours before an anaesthetic. This reduces the risk of vomiting, and of vomit entering the windpipe or lungs.
How long do you need to fast for?
The medical staff will explain when your child needs to stop eating or drinking – be guided by them. In general, you can give breast milk to kids under six months up to three hours before surgery; formula can be given up to four hours before surgery. Kids aged six months or older can’t have food or milk products for at least six hours before surgery (including chewing gum or lollies). They can have clear liquids (meaning liquids you can see through) such as water, clear fruit juice or cordial) up to one hour before surgery.
How long before surgery should you stop drinking water?
Again, your medical team will advise you. Generally, for babies under six months, water can be given up to one hour before surgery. Kids aged six months or older can have clear liquids up to one hour before surgery.
How can you take their minds off feeling hungry?
An iPad, watching movies, colouring in or drawing, or a favourite game can help. If a Child Life Therapist is available, they can also help with fun activities – but it’s a good idea to bring things from home.
How soon after surgery can your child eat or drink?
Once you have the go ahead from medical staff, kids can drink and eat shortly after surgery. It’s best to start off with something light. This might include an ice block or some apple juice, then a sandwich.