Lead is a heavy metal found naturally in the environment as well as in many common consumer products. Though it serves no purpose in the human body, most people have a small amount of it in their bodies because it's so prevalent in our surroundings.
In adults, a low level of lead exposure isn't considered dangerous. However, in babies and young kids whose brains are still developing, even a small amount of lead can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems. At higher levels, lead exposure can cause seizures, coma, and even death.
Public Health determine whether to do a blood lead test and when based on a child's risk for lead poisoning. Those who are considered at risk - such as kids who live in cities or in houses built before 1978 (the year that regulations began requiring that lead-containing paints could not be used in households) or who are exposed to lead through a parent's occupation - are usually tested at ages 1 and 2 years, and might require additional testing until age 6.
No special preparations are needed for this test. A health professional will collect blood from a finger stick. For an infant, the blood may be obtained by puncturing the heel with a small needle (lancet). Collecting a sample of blood is only temporarily uncomfortable and can feel like a quick pinprick. The blood sample will be processed by a machine. If lead levels in the blood screening are found to be elevated, your child will be referred to a doctor for a follow-up test.
Having a blood test is relatively painless. Still, many children are afraid of needles. Explaining the test in terms your child can understand might help ease some of the fear. Allow your child to ask the technician any questions he or she might have. Tell your child to try to relax and stay still during the procedure, as tensing muscles and moving can make it harder and more painful to draw blood. It also may help if your child looks away when the needle is being inserted into the skin.
If the follow-up test confirms an elevated lead level you will be given information on reducing your child's lead exposure. For higher levels, a home visit may be scheduled to help detect lead sources in your home.
If you have questions contact us at 307-733-6401 or email us.