Diagnosis

Your child's doctor may recommend your child be tested for lead levels during routine check-ups.

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that doctors and parents follow the recommendations of their state or local health department. Some areas, such as those with older homes, have a higher lead exposure risk, so more frequent testing might be recommended for children who live in those areas.

If your area doesn't have specific lead testing recommendations, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends your child be tested for lead levels at ages 1 and 2. Doctors might also suggest lead screening for older children who haven't been tested.

A simple blood test can 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).

There is no safe blood level of lead. However, a level of 5 mcg/dL is used to indicate a possibly unsafe level for children. Children whose blood tests at those levels should be tested periodically. A child whose levels become too high — generally 45 mcg/dL or higher — should be treated.

Treatment

The first step in treating lead poisoning is to remove the source of the contamination. If you can't remove lead from your environment, you might be able to reduce the likelihood that it will cause problems.

For instance, sometimes it's better to seal in rather than remove old lead paint. Your local health department can recommend ways to identify and reduce lead in your home and community.

For children and adults with relatively low lead levels, simply avoiding exposure to lead might be enough to reduce blood lead levels.

Treating higher levels

For more-severe cases, your doctor might recommend:

  • Chelation therapy. In this treatment, a medication given by mouth binds with the lead so that it's excreted in urine. Chelation therapy might be recommended for children with a blood level of 45 mcg/dL or greater and adults with high blood levels of lead or symptoms of lead poisoning.

  • EDTA chelation therapy. Doctors treat adults with lead levels greater than 45 mcg/dL of blood and children who can't tolerate the drug used in conventional chelation therapy most commonly with a chemical called calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). EDTA is given by injection.

 

 

 

Brenda J Music

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