A Tale of Two Little Girls

January 4, 2018

There were two little girls about the same age in the testing room a while back. One had been coming for several months. She lives nearby, so she was able to come in once a week until we had tested enough to give her a fair amount of treatment in different areas. She was pretty allergic, so her testing took quite a while to complete. At first, she was a little anxious, but she soon settled into the routine of “pinch”, wait 8 minutes while playing with her DS , then another pinch. Her mom usually let her test about 2 hours at a time. Some of our patients come a long distance and it is not practical to test only 2 hours at a time, but to push a child beyond his or her level of endurance is often counterproductive.

The other little girl, a new patient, was pretty typical of children who test. She was frightened—there were needles involved! Her dad brought her, and he was loving but firm. No matter how many tears she shed, she was going to be tested, “or else.” I think this dad was using a combination of firmness, threat and reward. The formula, whatever it was, seemed to be effective and eventually, the little girl let me stick her. She wasn’t happy about it, but we settled into a routine. With each stick she put up less resistance, and I even heard her laugh a time or two. I never tell a child that testing doesn’t hurt. I’ve been tested, and sometimes it feels like a bee sting. Some children really don’t seem to mind the sticks, but they are in the minority. The pain doesn’t last long, and when we neutralize patients to enough of the antigens which may be a problem for them, it seems to have a calming effect, which allows the child to test with less anxiety and discomfort.

Trying to reason with children doesn’t seem to work when fear is in control. Even threats of losing a privilege, or missing out on an anticipated treat don’t always work. Money? The child often agrees to a bargain before testing begins, but a delayed reward doesn’t seem so appealing when the reality sets in. If the parent brings a pocketful of quarters (or singles) the immediate reward system may work if the child can be persuaded to try the first stick.

Sometimes it seems as if the child is in charge—a bad situation for all concerned. I believe children should be allowed to choose in some situations, but when it comes to their health, probably not. If the parent is anxious about the process, the child often picks up on the parent’s attitude, and this situation makes things harder for the child and the tester. Loving firmness from a parent who is in control of the situation seems to work better than anything else.