Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Your child's doctor will likely recommend your child be tested for lead levels during routine well child exams. There is some disagreement in the medical community about how often or when a child should be screened for lead levels in their blood. Some experts feel children without any lead poisoning symptoms don't benefit from being tested for lead poisoning.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend doctors and parents follow the recommendations of their state or local health department. Some areas could potentially have a higher lead exposure risk, so certain areas may recommend more frequent testing. If your area doesn't have any specific lead testing recommendations, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends your child be tested for lead levels at ages 1 and 2. Your doctor may also suggest lead screening if your child is older, but hasn't yet been screened for lead.

Doctors usually use a simple blood test to detect lead poisoning. A small blood sample is taken from a finger prick or from a vein. Lead levels in the blood are measured in micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL). A level of 5 mcg/dL or higher indicates your child may have unsafe levels of lead in their blood and should have their blood tested periodically. If levels become too high — generally 45 mcg/dL or higher — your child should be treated.

June 10, 2014