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Has anyone had their baby's lead and/or iron levels tested?

5469 Views 33 Replies 27 Participants Last post by  eilonwy
We decided to test DD's iron levels because she doesn't eat a lot of solid foods at 10.5 months and we're worried about anemia...I know that DCs don't have to show signs of it to have problems. I also wanted to test her lead levels just to be on the safe side although I think it's doubtful she's had. any significant lead exposure. Our landlord refuses to look into whether there was ever any lead paint used in our condo, which was built before 1978...but it was built in the 70s and the maintenance people say there was never any lead-based exterior paint used, so it's really unlikely that even the lowest layers of paint have lead.

Anyway...I thought that the test for both would just be a simple finger-stick. This is what I had read. But we took DD in today to get the tests done and he whipped out two huge vials that would need to be filled with blood! He was very blase' about the whole thing, told us it would hurt her and that she would definitely cry, and a lot. We asked if we could do a finger stick instead, he said absolutely not. Then we asked was there anything he could do to make it easier on her, and he smiled and said no. I just did NOT get a good vibe so I declined the tests.

I felt instantly so relieved. DD has had NO vaccinations unless you count the Vitamin K shot at birth, which I would have declined if I weren't so out of it. She had the PKU test but I thought that was important. I feel like I had a moment of clarity in the phlebotomist's office: I do not feel that DD's risk of anemia or a high lead level is worth subjecting her to a torturous blood test. She trusts me, and I just could not let them do this to her.

Was I wrong? Is it indeed possible to get these tests done with a finger-stick?
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I thought they could do iron with a finger stick but lead is definitely a full-fledged blood draw.

One thing to keep in mind is that a blood draw is actually easier with a smaller baby than with a preschooler, because they don't worry about it and get scared before it happends--so if you think you're ever going to want to do it, you might want to do it now. I had my 16 month old dd's lead levels tested and it was rough for about one minute. When we had a blood draw done for my 4 y.o last year it was really horrible because she was terrified in anticipation--one of the reasons I went ahead and had my little one tested young.
Yes, you can do a quick look at Iron with a fingerstick. I have not had either done. I am considering the lead but not the iron. (we live in the high lead district) The iron levels typically dip between 9 and 12 months which signals the bowels to try to get more from the food. Since my baby doesn't have any interference with iron fortified foods or vitamins, I know that her body will do what it's suppose to.
We've had both our kids tested for lead. Yes, it's a big old needle and a big old tube of blood. No, that did not deter me. Yes, I winced as the needle went in and I felt badly for them. Of course. But we live in an old house which had peeling paint at the time, and there was no way I was going to remain ignorant and let them pay the price. I have no regrets.

OP, I've got to say that I strongly disagree with your position on the lead test. A blood test, painful as it may be, is only momentary. Brain damage as a result of lead is not. Your landlord refuses to look into whether lead paint was used in your apartment. The maintenance people may or may not be telling you the truth - or even know what the truth is. You have got to be your baby's advocate, here. If lead-paint was used, that dust could be released every time your windows open and close. I urge you to reconsider on this one.
Iron is DEFINITELY a finger prick I know because my daughter has had it done. Lead was also a finger prick but a small vial was filled. It isn't like the lead was a needle/syringe and vial.

Iron was not a big deal AND she was low so I was glad I had it done. My pediatrician read the HG level right in the office.

Lead was a BIG deal, my daughter, even at 9 months had a temper! However, we live in an old house with lead paint everywhere despite my efforts to paint over it so I thought it was important.
I feel so confused about this. On the one hand, I am often paranoid and see risks where they don't really exist. I try to balance my instincts, which are often overcautious, with the information I gather from reliable sources. But instinct tends to win out when it is strong.

I had a strong visceral feeling NOT to get the test done today, but now of course I am questioning it. The thing is that I have not had to subject DD to anything painful "for her own good" and while I know that I would of course do so if necessary, I'm having a hard time deciding if these tests fall under that heading. I just feel like DD would not have ever trusted me again if I brought her into a situation that was scary and painful and couldn't be explained.

I feel kind of like a loser mama today, just defeated. I thought I trusted myself to make good decisions for DD but I"m just not sure any more. And if it's this hard at 10.5 months, how will I be able to make the tough decisions when she is older? I am going to be one of *those* mothers who can't stand for her DC to be hurt, ever. How do I get rid of this extreme sensitivity? How do I trust that my DD will be OK, that she will not suffer terribly, that she will not feel betrayed if I subject her to something painful?

I think I am being paranoid about the lead and that thought also helped bolster my rejection of the test. Our condo is 30 years old and has been repainted many times. We don't open the windows often - we open the sliding glass door to air out the place. But, you never know.

I'm just rambling. I guess I seem pretty pathetic. Well, it's that kind of day. Thanks everyone for the input.
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jsut wanted to are not a loser mama!!!!! We all fluxuate in our confidence all the time

I've found that as time goes by, that I can always decide to DO something, but it is much harder, if not impossible, to UNdo something. So I DO as little as possible when I am unsure. You can always decide to get her levels checked at anytime. FWIW, I had my first son tested for iron at 9 months - it opened a huge can of worms because they said his levels were low, with my next baby I declined. That baby is now 3 years old dveloping normally, and I never knew what his levels were. Also, with my first son, they said his levels were low and recommended I give him iron drops (after putting him through more bloodwork to test for rare forms of anemia). I gave him 2 doses of the iron, and never did again. The fight was not worth it. He is now a normally developing 6 year old. I will say though, that a blood draw, imo, is easier than the finger prick where they have to keep squeezing and squeezing...

good luck to you mama. the fact that you are even questioning wether you are doing okay by your babe indicates you ARE a good mama!
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You're not pathetic! You're a loving mama! Can you perhaps visit a different doctor? This one doesn't seem very friendly/empathetic/caring. You could ask that they use a topical numbing cream (like infant EMLA) before doing the blood draw, and there are comfort techniques (like nursing and cuddling) that you could use before and after the procedure. Oh, if you do want the EMLA, ask for a Rx so you can get it and apply it before you go to the doctor's office since it can take 20-30 minutes to take effect.

We had dd's iron levels checked (with a heel stick) at her 9mo checkup. We plan on having her lead levels checked at her next appointment since our house is over 100 years old and in a constant state of remodel.
Lead is such a sneaky, nasty problem which can be treated if it's caught early so we want to stay on top of it. It's painful, but not terribly so, and not without benefit to dd (and my peace of mind too).

Oh, with your landlord...I don't know where you live, but when we went to buy our house we found out that if a building owner has their property tested for lead/asbestos/etc then they have to reveal the results to future buyers or renters. But if they DON'T have it tested they can say they "don't know" if these substances are present even if they know full well that the pipes are wrapped in asbestos and the walls have lead paint. So your landlord's reservations might be telling you something.

Many home improvement stores (like Lowes and Home Depot) sell lead test kits that are pretty easy to use so you could test for yourself if that would help with your decision.

Good luck!
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You can test for lead with a finger prick - that's how it was done for my DD. Though as a PP said, it's not just a quick prick; they have to squeeze out a fair amount of blood. The result you get is not as accurate as using a vein, but I think it's likely to show lead levels as possibly higher than they really are, not lower, so it's a good initial screening.

I was surprised that my DD didn't seem to find it painful. She first had it done at one, and she cried a lot then, but I think it was just because she was freaked out about having a stranger touch her. She had it done again at two, when strangers didn't bother her anymore, and she ended up watching with interest as blood was squeezed out, and not crying at all.

Originally Posted by Daffodil
The result you get is not as accurate as using a vein, but I think it's likely to show lead levels as possibly higher than they really are, not lower, so it's a good initial screening.
That is the false thinking that leads to the brain damage. Brain and tissue damage start at level 10. The finger prick will only catch levels higher than 30 or maybe 20, when it is already too late.
My dh just mentioned that a lab using tandem mass spectometry (he's a bio nerd) can test for lead using a single drop of blood. You might need to ask your doc to hook you up with a lab that can do this, but it would be very accurate and involve just a quick heel stick.

Originally Posted by MamaInTheBoonies
That is the false thinking that leads to the brain damage. Brain and tissue damage start at level 10. The finger prick will only catch levels higher than 30 or maybe 20, when it is already too late.
No, this is wrong. I read that there is another screening test (erythrocyte protoporphyrin) that is not accurate for levels lower than about 25 - that's probably the one you're thinking of. The problem with collecting blood through a finger stick rather than venipuncture is that the sample is more likely to be contaminated.

From this site:

Capillary specimens are easy to collect in the office setting, requires very little blood and are appropriate for initial screening. Contamination of the specimen with lead dust from the skin or air may cause falsely high levels to be reported. Scrupulous care is needed to minimize contamination of the capillary specimen. Elevated capillary blood lead results must be confirmed by repeating the test with a venous specimen.
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Both the kids were tested for lead and iron at 1 and then again at 2. Our house is 105 though!
Neither of them had any problems really. AJ got mad at age 1, but I don't remember them drawing blood from Evan's arm at age 1 though. Hmmmm. I know they did w/ AJ.
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another chiming in that iron can be done with a heel prick, lead is a vial.

Just had it done on my 2yo a couple weeks ago, and it was fine. He sat on my lap, I brought a treat - the techs were great, and he didn't even could be because he's seen me get my blood drawn about a dozen times between my thyroid and this pregnancy, and I always talk to him about what is going on with me. I was expecting a lot of tears, and didn't get any.

Our house was built in 1922, and all the door jams and windows have old, old layers of paint on them, so I felt the benefits outweighed the risks for us. We will test him every year for a couple years, and will test our nw babe.

I don't enjoy my kids being in pain, but I would rather a few minutes of crying over finding out down the road that my child has lead poisoning and I could have prevented it. Right now it would involve DS and I moving out of the house for a couple weeks so they could strip and repaint all the jams and windows, which isn't very practical. So, we did the test, had the results back in a week, and he's well under the state max level. Getting blood taken out is WAY different than having something injected in.

We did the iron test when he was still BF and very little solids when he was a baby, and that was an in-office heel prick, and had the results the next day.

ETA: oops, I typed finger prick for some reason instead of heel...
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DD had lead levels checked with a finger prick. I know it was a finger prick, because I have the results right here and she has never had a blood draw with a needle except for a bilirubin check at a week old. Honestly, the finger prick was pretty traumatic all by itself, because they had to "milk" the finger to get enough blood, and then we couldn't get the bleeding to stop and they wouldn't let DD have a Band-Aid because she might eat it. DD strenuously objected to having me put pressure on her finger, and she wound up with blood all over her clothes. It was miserable.
There is a thread in health & healing "moms dealing with elevated lead levels" (think that's the title) I urge you to read it.

I have declined testing that I did not think was necessary but I do think a lead test is very important if there is even the slightest chance of a lead paint hazard.

We had our daughter tested at 9 months and it was a 5.6 - we began to take steps to minimize any further exposure. HEPA vac, wash hands constantly, no shoes in the house, etc. (check that thread for tips) We had a follow up test a few months later and her level had shot up to a 13. We vacated our house immediately and never went back. Our story is nothing compared to some of the mamas on that thread with kiddos who are at 25, 30, 40.

My daughter's first two blood draws were painful - she cried and cried. It was truly awful. We got a prescription for the EMLA cream and dyring the last test she didn't even flinch. Her lead levels have come way down since we moved

Good luck!
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Yep, we did it at 9 months with babe #1, 1 year with babe #2. It was the big vials, from their arm. All the levels were normal. But we wanted to know about the lead for sure because our house is very old and we didn't know the status of the paint layers.

- krista
They tested DS's (at 7 months) lead level because we live in an older house. It was a finger poke and the nurse kept squeezing his finger to get a small thingy of blood, DS was sleeping and did not wake up. Maybe you can sling your daughter before hand to lull her to sleep too?
Yes, we live in MA and lead testing is mandatory at 12 months, and I would get it anyway. It sucks, I know - when my daughter had it done 6 years ago I cried as much as she did, but this state is OLD, there is lead in the soil, and it was not a risk I was willing to take. Don't know about heel stick for it, 6 years ago it was explained to me that heel stick was not recommended for the test, and that was Mass. Children's Hospital, so I trust they know what they are talking about. I didn't want to go through the test if it wasn't going to be accurate.

Just an aside, painting over lead paint does NOT matter, and will not "fix" the problem.
I had dd's lead level tested with a finger prick at 6 months. Our house was built in 1900 and wasn't renovated after the 50's. We aren't sure if there is lead, but we figure there's a good chance of it. The finger prick was difficult. They had to squeeze her finger pretty hard, but I felt it was necessary. Our doc says that they test it between a 0-10. They don't worry unless the babe has a level of 5 or higher. DD's was a 2. He said 2 was perfectly usual for a child who lives close to a highway even. I'm not so worried right now, but we are going to move. Fortunately dd is not crawling. The health department told us that wet sanding the paint, or painting over it would take care of the problem. We have painted over the living room where we stay the most, but we haven't been able to paint the rest of the house. We are just going to sell and move, and let someone who has the time to rehab a house do it. We thought we'd be able to when we bought it, but that was before babe. It is strange that we all have conflicting information. Don't you think?
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