Preparing Your Child for Their First Diagnostic Scan

doctors looking at an xray

Imagine yourself as a child again, and you have to go through an MRI or CT scan. Sounds scary, right? Your child is likely feeling the same way. Here’s how to help them prepare.

Diagnostic scans are necessary to diagnose a wide variety of medical conditions, such as cancer and bone disorders. For adults, the idea of being inside a machine anywhere from minutes to hours is probably nerve-wracking enough. For children, it can be ten times worse, especially during their first time.

If your child has to go through a diagnostic scan, here are some of the best ways to help them prepare for it:

1. Choose a child-friendly service

Some clinics offer private MRI scans, along with other diagnostic services that are catered to children. Scanning rooms in these types of clinics are designed to be kid-friendly, often being painted with bright colours and decorated to make the machine look less intimidating and more fun.

Going to a child-friendly clinic instead of a traditional one is one of the best ways to help ease your child’s anxiety about the procedure. Moreover, it can make the experience fun, which will make it easier for them to go through another scan in the future.

2. Explain the procedure

As the parent, you are the first person that your child will trust. Thus, you need to be the one to explain the procedure to them. Help them understand why they have to do the scan and the good that comes out from doing so. Explain what will happen during the procedure in a way that they can understand. If they ask questions, answer them as honestly as possible. However, if you don’t know the answer, ask the clinic and don’t try to invent an answer.

3. Use teaching media

doctor holding an injection

Free audio-visual tools are abundant on the Internet; they are designed to orient children about MRIs, CT scans, x-rays, or whatever diagnostic scan they have to do. These tools help prepare children for the procedure by showing them actual pictures of the machine, as well as letting them hear the sounds that they will listen to inside.

In child-friendly diagnostic clinics, they may also have miniature MRI or x-ray machine toys that your child can play with. During the initial appointment, you can have your child play with the toy so that they can familiarise themselves with the machine beforehand.

4. Have a mock scan at home

During a scan, your child will have to lay as still as possible. Now, this is a challenge for most children, especially if they are too nervous in the first place.

You can help curb their anxiety and instead build confidence by holding a mock scan at home. To do this, have them lie on the couch and practice staying still for minutes at a time. You can even make a fake MRI machine using cardboard to simulate the feeling of being inside the machine.

If you’ve done everything you can to prepare your child, and they are still inconsolable when the appointment day comes, consider sedation. Anesthesia will keep them asleep during the procedure, so they don’t hurt themselves or delay the scan unnecessarily. However, keep in mind that anesthesia carries its own set of risks. Thus, as much as possible, prepare them for the scan beforehand.

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