Scan anxiety (scanxiety) in children

Scanxiety is the fear and worry associated with scanning, both before and after a scan and before the results are given. For children, scanxiety can be due to the fear of being in the scanner, and for teenagers and parents, it could be the anxiety around waiting for and receiving results of scans.

You know yourself and your child best. Some of the tips below may or may not work.

Parents often must manage their own anxiety while navigating how best to help their children deal with their feelings. Given the potentially overwhelming nature of such anxiety, it can be helpful for both parents and children to follow anxiety prevention and reduction techniques during the weeks, days and even minutes before a scan.


Keep your mind and your child’s mind busy. Do something fun with the family. Go on a day out or buy some new games. Anything that brings smiles and allows you to relax for a little while.

You are not alone

Remind yourself and your child that you are not alone. Join our Facebook support group to talk to other parents. Set up pen pals for your child with other children, brainstrust can help with this, so get in touch.

Have a plan

As a parent, you’re probably thinking about the results of a scan that’s not even happened yet. It may be daunting to think about, but make plans for what you will do immediately after hearing the results in the worst-case scenario. You’ve probably already thought about this, so planning the next step could help you take some control. Once you’ve got this plan, leave it stored and distract yourself. You have planned and prepared for the worst. Now all you can do is create fun memories.

Create an action plan with your child

It might help to create an action plan with your child to manage potential anxiety surrounding a scan. Talk to them about it, and ask:

  • What are they scared of?
  • What will help them to reduce stress?

Having a plan of what to do in the face of stress will help you and your child feel prepared if you experience expected, or unexpected, scanxiety.

Meditation and mindfulness

Sometimes there can be a sudden rush of thoughts and panic when waiting for results as a parent. Look for some breathing exercises. There are many apps that help with meditation too. Sometimes it may help children to focus on their breathing.

Talk to a professional

As a parent, you carry a lot, and sometimes it is better to talk to someone about how you are feeling to manage anxiety. Get in touch with brainstrust, as we can offer coaching and counselling through the charity.

On the scan day

If your child is nervous or scared, talk to the healthcare staff, and they can support your child with some distraction techniques. They may be able to get a support specialist to help with the scan.

For younger children, bring their favourite toy, which they can take with them. Use your child’s imagination, and make the scan seem like an adventure where they are the superhero.

For older children and teenagers, it might be worth taking in something to hold or selecting what music to have on. Double-check with the radiographers to see whether you can do this.

Did this information make you feel more resourced, more confident or more in control?