If you're like most adults, you've probably had X-rays taken several times in your life — whether during periodic dental checkups or at the ER after suffering a sprain, strain, or fracture. But for children and infants who are often frightened of new situations and may be hard to control when curious or distressed, sitting still even for the few seconds it takes to perform an X-ray can be far more challenging. What should you know about pediatric X-rays? 

What Can Pediatric X-Rays Help Diagnose?

Often, X-rays are the first line of diagnosis when dealing with something that's not immediately apparent. X-rays can detect fractured bones, kidney stones, or a foreign object in the stomach. Just a few of the potential issues that can be diagnosed through X-ray include: 

  • Pneumonia
  • Lung trauma or scarring
  • Swallowed or inhaled foreign bodies
  • Kidney stones and gallstones
  • Intestinal obstructions
  • Bowel perforation 
  • Fracture
  • Bone infection
  • Tumors
  • Hiatal hernias

In some cases, the images revealed in an X-ray will prompt your child's doctor to order more tests, like an upper GI scope, an MRI, or a CT scan. Because X-rays are so quick, inexpensive, and relatively harmless, they're commonly used to narrow down the potential causes of an illness or injury.

How Should You Prepare Your Child for an X-Ray?

If you're expecting an X-ray when you visit the hospital or walk-in clinic, your child should wear loose-fitting clothing that can be easily removed. It's also a good idea to remove all jewelry, dental retainers, hairpins, eyeglasses, and anything else that's not attached to your child's body, as these foreign objects can interfere with a clear picture. If your child is extremely nervous or won't be able to sit still during the examination, they may be given a mild sedative to help them relax during the procedure. 

Depending on the part of the body being X-rayed, your child may be asked to step into a special room with the X-ray machine. A parent is generally allowed to accompany their child as long as they wear a protective lead apron to reduce their exposure to radiation. In other cases, especially with small babies who have trouble holding still, the X-ray may be performed with a portable machine while your child sits comfortably in a hospital bed. As long as your child holds still for the few seconds required to capture all necessary images, the entire process shouldn't take more than 10 to 15 minutes. 

To learn more about X-rays and walk-in X-ray machines, talk to a medical professional.