It is important that a doctor has a medical history of a child and performs a physical examination on a child, so that he or she can evaluate a child’s health. This is important as it helps the doctor understand what may be causing a child’s illness. Doctors may have to order some medical tests to enable them find out more. Most of these tests are covered by insurance and some preventative ones are covered 100% with no co-payment needed.
Below are some of the common tests done on children and what they are used for:
These tests are usually carried out in a lab or in a doctor’s office. Technicians who are trained to draw blood will take a child through the process.
When a small amount of blood is needed from a baby, the technician sticks the heel of the baby, so that they get some blood. If it is a much older child, blood can be drawn by sticking a small needle in the child’s finger.
When large blood samples are needed, the technician will first have to clean the area the blood will be drawn from. Next step will be to stick a needle into a vain to draw the blood.
This will usually be done on the arm or on the hand. For small children, drawing of the blood may sometimes take more than one try. When the needle is removed, usually a cotton ball is used to prevent the flow of blood and then a band-aid over that.
Drawing blood from small kids can be scary. It is therefore advisable that one helps by holding a child’s hand or offering them a stuffed animal to comfort them during the procedure. Prepare the child by telling them the procedure may be slightly painful but all will be well. For small children, one should try saying the alphabet, singing a song or counting with them while the blood sample is being taken. Maybe telling them they can pick out a fun sticker afterwards or a special treat.
Blood tests mostly carried out on children include:
Common blood count (CBC)
This test measures levels of different blood cells. The results will show whether the different blood cells available are enough. That is whether they are more than required or not enough. The test can help detect different infections and illnesses.
Blood chemistry test
This test measures the levels of electrolytes in the blood. Examples would be sodium and potassium. This test can help in detecting kidney dysfunctions, metabolic disorders, diabetes and tissue damage.
This test can show the type of germs causing an infection. When a child shows symptoms of an infection such as chills or high fever and the doctor thinks that the bacteria may have entered the blood, a doctor can order for a blood culture. This will help the doctor determine how the infection will be treated.
Children who are between the ages of 1 and 2 years are required to be tested for lead. Kids at this age are at a higher risk of lead poisoning. This can happen if the child eats or inhales particles from lead-based paints. High levels of lead can be a cause of headaches and stomach issues. They have also been linked to developmental problems in children.
Liver function test
This test is done so that it can determine whether the child’s liver is working well and whether the liver has inflammation or damages. A doctor will order for this test when they are in search of viral infection such as viral hepatitis or mononucleosis or a damaged liver from other health issues.
An x-ray helps a doctor determine different conditions. Some of these include lung infections and broken bones. These tests are not painful and will require a child to sit, stand, or lie still on a table while pictures of the area in question are taken by the x-ray machine. At times a child may be dressed in a special gown. This gown helps in protecting the rest of the body from radiation.
Ultrasounds are mostly associated with pregnancies although a doctor can order for one in different cases. Apart from pregnancies, ultrasounds are used to look for problems in the kidneys, collection of fluids in the body or give a closer look at a baby’s brain. It is a painless procedure which uses high frequency sound waves which bounce off the organs to create pictures.
During the procedure, a special gel is applied to the skin and a hand held device moved over the particular area. Images created by the sound waves can be seen on a screen. It may be difficult for one to understand the images from an ultrasound and the doctor and technician will have to interpret the results.
Computed tomography (CT-Scan or a CAT scan)
This is a type of x-ray which a doctor can order to look for issues like internal bleeding, appendicitis or abnormal growths. It is a painless procedure but can be scary to small children. The child may be asked to lie on a table which is then slid into a scanner. This procedure may require one to swallow contrast material or take it through an IV. The contrast material can be a dye which helps to improve visibility of some tissues/blood vessels.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
They are mostly used examine bones, the brain, and joints. They use magnetic fields and radio waves to produce images. Just like a CAT scan, the child has to lie on a narrow table which is then slid in to the MRI machine. To get better pictures of some images, contrast material is given through IV. It is also a painless procedure but it can be noisy. This can scare some children. Most of the times, children are sedated when taking MRIs or if they are older they put on headphones.
Upper gastrointestinal imaging (upper GI)
This is a study which involves ingestion of contrast material and then the child proceeds to have x-rays done on their digestive system. The doctor is able to see how the child swallows. This test is usually used to evaluate difficulty in gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and swallowing. It is a painless procedure but children do not like drinking contrast material. For children, flavor can be used to give it a better taste.
Voiding cystourethrogram (VCUG)
This procedure involves putting some die in the bladder. The doctor then watches where the die goes, through continuous x-rays. A VCUG is normally ordered by a doctor when they suspect urinary reflux which at times leads to kidney damage.
Though the procedure is not painful, but may be uncomfortable and scary to a child because it involves insertion of a catheter through the urethra and into the bladder. Once the bladder is filled with contrast material, images are taken while the bladder is being filled and then when the child urinates. This will show where the dye will go and where the urine will go.