X-rays For Children

X-rays For Children

X-rays help doctors diagnose and monitor medical conditions and guide treatments. Find out more about what an x-ray involves. 

A child's guide to hospital: Chest X-Ray

A short video for children about what to expect before and during an x-ray by The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne. Please note - some content may be specific to the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne and may not be relevant to New Zealand. 


Key points about x-rays in children

  • an x-ray uses a form of radiation that can pass through the body
  • an x-ray can take pictures of what is happening inside the body
  • x-rays help doctors diagnose and monitor medical conditions and guide treatments

What is an x-ray?

An x-ray machine that takes pictures of the inside of the body. A doctor may recommend an x-ray to help understand what's happening inside your child's body.

How long will my child's x-ray take?

Having an x-ray is very quick and usually takes a few minutes. It can take a bit longer if your child needs lots of x-rays.

How does an x-ray work?

Your child will need to stand, sit or lie down to get into position for their pictures. The radiographer will help with this. 

An x-ray is a picture that is taken using a form of radiation that can pass through the body. Different parts of the body contain different tissues - some will absorb more radiation than others. When the x-rays pass through the body, they create an image like a shadow. This means air, bones, and soft tissues like muscles can be seen on the x-ray images in black, white and shades of grey.

Who will my child meet when they get their x-ray? 

The person who takes your children's pictures is called a radiographer. They can answer your questions and let your child know what they need to do. 

You and your child may also meet other people, such as a play therapist. A radiologist is the doctor who will look at your children's pictures after the x-ray.

What will my child see when they have their x-ray?

X-ray camera 

The x-ray camera hangs from the ceiling. It can be moved to take pictures of any part of your child's body - but it never touches them.

photo pf an xray maching

X-ray boards

X-ray boards sit behind the part of the body where the pictures are taken. They're smooth and can feel a little cold. The radiographer will also shine a light over the part of the body they are taking pictures of.

Photo of an xray board with a childs hand on it

X-ray lead aprons 

All the people in the x-ray room with you will wear a special outfit - this also stops the camera from taking their picture.

photo of a radiographer with an xray machine

What will my child need to do during their x-ray? 

Keeping still

It is important that your child tries to keep still while they have their x-ray. If they move around too much, it can make the pictures blurry. It is OK for your child to breathe normally, blink and stay relaxed. 

Holding their breath

If your child is having images taken of their chest or abdomen (tummy area), they may be asked to hold their breath for short periods. You can practise this before their appointment.

What to wear

Have your child dressed in comfy clothes. It's important your child doesn't wear clothes with prints, sequins, glitter or metal on them, as they can get in the way of the pictures. If you forget, the radiographer will give your child a hospital gown to wear while they have their x-ray. If your child is having pictures taken of their head, they'll need to remove jewellery like earrings and necklaces, too.

How can I help my child prepare for their x-ray?

Asking questions

Check the date and time of your child's x-ray and see if there is anything you need to do beforehand to prepare. If you have any questions about the x-ray, contact the hospital where the x-ray will take place. Ask to speak to the reception at the x-ray department.

Play therapy

Some hospitals have play therapists that could be involved with your child and their x-ray. They can support your child with activities to help them feel more comfortable about getting an x-ray. 

What to bring

Sometimes, you may need to wait around before your child has their x-ray. It's a good idea to bring some things to keep your child busy, such as books or toys. Your child may be able to take a favourite soft toy or comforter into the x-ray with them. 

Preparing your child

It is important to talk to your child and explain why they are having an x-ray and what it will involve. How and when you do this will depend on their age and your judgment. The Okee in Medical Imaging App can help you to prepare your child for their x-ray.

Okee in Medical Imaging App

The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne has an app you can download onto your phone or tablet. It has games that help your child to practise keeping still and holding their breath. It also has games that help explain the different types of scans.

The app is called Okee in Medical Imaging and is available from the app store.

Screenshot of the OKEE app

Please be aware that some of the content in the app is specific to Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne. 

See more KidsHealth content on x-rays and scans 

See the KidsHealth's section on x-rays and scans

Screenshot of KidsHealth website x-rays and scans section


Content adapted and republished, with permission, from resources at The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. Images subject to copyright.

This page last reviewed 13 September 2023.

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