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How Do I Get My Child Tested for Lead Poisoning?

I live in an older home, and most of the walls are covered in lead-based paint. I am concerned that my son might be in danger of lead poisoning. What are some of the symptoms of lead poisoning, and how do I get him tested?
- Laurie

Lead poisoning can cause many symptoms, including irritability, headaches, weight loss, nausea, constipation, abdominal pain, fatigue, and muscle weakness. However, many kids with lead poisoning don't show any signs of the illness.

If you're concerned that your son might be at risk for lead poisoning, talk with your doctor. It's important to get your child tested for lead poisoning, as many other illnesses can cause these same symptoms. Your doctor may recommend a blood test that will help to make (or rule out) a diagnosis of lead poisoning.

Younger children are at higher risk for lead exposure, especially those who live in communities where the homes were built before 1978 (particularly those before the 1950s) because the homes may contain lead-based paint. State health department recommendations for lead screening vary depending on a child's age and risk of lead exposure.

Health care providers should follow the state laws for lead screening. If a child lives in a state where there is no lead screening program, children should be screened at 12 and 24 months age (when the highest risk occurs).

Talk to your child's doctor to learn more about lead exposure prevention and how to evaluate your child's risk.

Reviewed by: Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: May 2015