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A blood test measures the lead levels in your body. A high level of lead in the body indicates lead poisoning.
Children and adults who have been exposed to lead should have their lead levels tested. Lead is especially harmful to children. It can damage their developing brains, leading to problems with their mental development. It can also cause organ damage.
Children should have their lead levels checked when exposure is suspected or when local guidelines suggest it. Generally, children get tested between 1 and 3 years old.
Local governments often set guidelines for lead testing particular to the risks in that area. Your local health department can tell you when testing is recommended.
Adults and children who are at risk for lead poisoning should be tested. High-risk groups include:
Exposure to certain materials also increases the risk of lead poisoning. Sources of lead exposure include:
Lead testing is done to check for lead poisoning. In the early stages, lead poisoning typically doesn't cause symptoms. That’s why routine testing is necessary in children and adults exposed to lead. Lead poisoning in children can cause:
In adults, lead poisoning can cause:
Your doctor may also order a blood test to check your lead levels if you have been previously diagnosed with lead poisoning. This test will be ordered to check that your lead levels are lowering with treatment.
A blood test to check your lead levels may be performed in your doctor’s office or a medical lab. It’s also called a blood draw or venipuncture.
To begin, the technician will clean the area that the blood will be drawn from with an antiseptic to help prevent infection. The blood is usually taken from a vein located on the inside of your elbow or the back of your hand. The technician will tie an elastic band around your upper arm. This is done to cause blood to collect in the vein, making it easier to draw blood.
They’ll insert a sterile needle into your vein and begin drawing blood. The elastic band will be removed from your arm. When the technician is done drawing blood, they will remove the needle. They'll apply a bandage to the wound. You’ll need to keep pressure on it to help stop the bleeding and prevent bruising. You may continue to feel some throbbing around the wound area, which will go away within a few minutes to a few hours.
Having your blood drawn may cause mild to moderate pain. Most people report a burning or pricking sensation. Relaxing your arm while having your blood drawn can help reduce the amount of pain.
Your blood sample will be sent to the medical lab to be tested for blood.
The risk of having your blood drawn is low. Possible risks include:
Getting a blood test is a routine procedure. If you are at risk for lead poisoning, it's important to check your blood lead levels.
Written by: Janelle Martel
Medically reviewed on: Feb 04, 2016: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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