Lead: About Your Child's Test

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What is a lead test?

This test measures the amount of lead in your child's blood. It's usually done on blood taken from a small poke in the heel or a finger, or from a vein in the arm.

A high level of lead in the blood is called lead poisoning. It's most harmful to children younger than age 6 (especially those younger than age 3). It can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, damage to the brain and kidneys, and anemia.

Why is this test done?

Testing for lead is done to:

  • Diagnose lead poisoning.
  • See how well treatment for lead poisoning is working.
  • Look for lead poisoning in children who may have been near lead. Lead may be found in lead paint in older homes, in older toys, or in areas where lead may have been used in manufacturing.

How can you prepare for the test?

  • Your child doesn't need to do anything to prepare for this test.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor about any medicines your child may be taking.

How is the test done?

An older child will have a finger stick, and a baby will have the blood taken from the heel.

Finger stick

For a finger-stick sample, the health professional will puncture the skin on your child's middle or ring finger with a small device called a lancet. Then they'll collect a small amount of blood.

Heel stick

The baby's heel is poked, and several drops of blood are collected. Your baby may have a tiny bruise where the heel was poked.

What happens after the test?

  • Your child will probably be able to go home right away.
  • Your child can go back to his or her usual activities right away.
  • You will be notified of the test results.
  • If the test shows high levels of lead, your doctor will want your child to have another test. How soon your child will need to be retested will depend on how much lead is in your child's blood. If the level of lead is only slightly high, the test may be done again in a month. If it's very high, the doctor may want to repeat the test within a few days.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.