700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Does the Sight of Blood Make Your Child Feel Faint?

Oct 15, 2015

If your child feels faint when they see blood, Halloween is probably not your favorite holiday. The reaction may be caused by vasovagal syncope – the term for a rapid drop in blood pressure and heart rate which can trigger fainting. The condition, set off by anxiety or emotional distress, is more common in teenagers, but can also occur in children and preschoolers. Teaching your teen or little one how to handle a “bloody” situation before it happens can help them and you feel less stressed.

Teach your preschoolers that blood isn't always bad. It’s normal for kids this age to find blood upsetting – they’ve already learned that the red boo-boos hurt. Here are some simple explanations to help make blood seem a little less scary:

  • Your body needs blood. Blood keeps you warm. It brings oxygen and nutrients to different parts of your body from your nose to your toes.
  • When you bleed a little bit from an injury, it’s actually good. Blood washes germs and dirt away. It makes a scab like a shield so your skin underneath can get better. (So don’t pick your scabs!)
  • A little scrape may hurt and bleed, but your body easily replaces the blood that is lost.
  • Blood is red because of the all the ingredients in it like iron that help our bodies.
  • If you or a friend is bleeding, come find me or another grown up and we will help you.

Boo-boos are inevitable, but a breakdown doesn’t have to be. Carry around a mini first-aid kit for speedy wound care. With your child’s input, develop a game plan for what to do when there’s blood involved. Come up with specific ideas (cuddles with a stuffed animal, listening to music, slow breathing, walking away, etc) to help her feel more comfortable and in control.

If “true” blood makes your child feel uncomfortable, the fake stuff may have the same impact. In general, preschoolers shouldn’t be exposed to shows or movies that contain bloody or graphic scenes. The line between reality and fantasy is blurred for young children, so steer sensitive kids away from graphic displays. With older kids, you may be able to prepare them in advance if you think they may see something a little too realistic – or decide together to avoid it.

If your child does feel dizzy, have him sit with his head between his knees or lie down for 10-15 minutes. Some kids may say, ‘I feel funny,’ or not verbalize symptoms, and appear pale. Once your child feels normal again, and have him slowly sit back up. Reassure him that everything is okay.

The good news is that most kids will outgrow or learn to self-manage an extreme response to seeing blood. And in the meantime, try to keep Halloween décor more “great pumpkin patch” and less “return of the slasher flick part 3.”

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Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Mike Patrick, MD
Emergency Medicine; Host of PediaCast

Dr Mike Patrick is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Ohio State University College of Medicine and Medical Director of Interactive Media for Nationwide Children's Hospital. Since 2006, he has hosted the award-winning PediaCast, a pediatric podcast for parents. Dr Mike also produces a national podcast for healthcare providers—PediaCast CME, which explores general pediatric and faculty development topics and offers free AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™ to listeners.

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.