The impact of skin prick testing on pain perception and anxiety in children and parents

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Betul Karaatmaca
Umit Murat Sahiner
Ozge Soyer
Bulent E Sekerel


anxiety, children, parent, skin prick testing, stress.


Background: Skin prick testing (SPT) is a major diagnostic tool in patients with allergic symptoms. The testing process may involve pain, anxiety, and stress on children and parents. Objective: We aimed to measure the level of pain and anxiety before and after SPT in children and parents, and tried to identify predictive factors.

Methods: The children underwent SPT and parents completed the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) S-Anxiety before and after SPT, T-Anxiety before SPT. The study nurse completed Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Pain Scale (CHEOPS) scores (<5 years) or Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale (VAS), (≥5 years) after the SPT, in order to quantify pain.

Results: A total of 523 children (5.3 [2.8–9.1] [median, interquartile range] years old, 59.5% male) were evaluated. Parent gender was a predominant factor for anxiety, as mothers had a higher pre-test STAI (S-Anxiety) score, STAI (T-Anxiety), and post-test STAI (S-Anxiety) score than fathers (p < 0.001). Pre-test STAI (S-Anxiety) scores of parents decreased with increasing age (for 0–<5 years, 5–<12 years, and ≥12 years; [p for trend = 0.016]). The children tested on the back had higher VAS scores compared with the ones tested on the forearm [2[0–4] vs 2[0–2], [p = 0.005]). Risk factors determining higher general anxiety STAI (T-Anxiety) scores above the median were female sex for the parent (OR = 1.68; 95% CI [1.10–2.57]; p = 0.017), and parent’s education level being greater than or equal to high school level (OR = 1.83; 95% CI [1.27–2.64]; p = 0.001).

Conclusion: SPT may cause anxiety and pain in a subgroup of children particularly in younger age, and if performed on the back. Anxiety levels were higher in mothers, and in parents with high education levels.

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