Screening tests for children
Without symptoms of disease, children generally do not need many laboratory screening tests. Preventive services for children emphasise immunisation and prevention of accidents and injuries as well as counselling on development of healthy eating and exercise habits. For immunisation schedule, refer to Immunise Australia Program.
Height, weight, and blood pressure should be monitored during periodic health examinations. Screening to prevent tooth decay is carried out through regular dental checks in schools. Although health screening laboratory tests are usually not conducted on children without symptoms of disease, some screening tests may be recommended based on known risk factors.
Not everyone in this age group may need screening for every condition listed here.
Click on the tabs above to read more about each condition and to determine if screening may be appropriate for you or your family member. You should discuss screening options with your health care practitioner.
Healthdirect Australia: Babies and toddlers health
Healthdirect Australia: Kids' health
Immunise Australia Program
Population screening for hypercholesterolaemia in children is currently not recommended in Australia. Case finding by family tracing is an effective strategy for identifying most children with familial hypercholesterolaemia. Screening should be based on:
- a family history of familial hypercholesterolaemia or
- premature cardiovascular disease (before 55 years in men, before 60 years in women)
Children should be tested before the age of 10 years but usually not before the age of two years. The age chosen should take into account the onset of coronary artery disease within the family and the wishes of the parents.
Blood samples: non-fasting capillary or venous samples can be used for screening measurement of total cholesterol. If the concentration is above 5.5 mmol/L, which is the 95th centile in childhood, a fasting venous blood sample should be taken for measurement of total and high-density lipoprotein HDL cholesterol and triglyceride. The low density lipoprotein LDL cholesterol can then be calculated.
An environmental hazard, lead can damage the brain and other organs. Currently, screening for lead poisoning is not recommended in Australia. However, Government efforts to reduce exposure have resulted in a fall in the levels of lead in the blood of the Australian population. The fall is thought to be the result of lower levels of lead in petrol and paint, and the removal of leaded solder from food cans and lead plumbing from homes. Screening for lead poisoning should be considered for children living in pre-1950s houses that are being renovated if this involves removal of old paint that may contain lead.
Better Health Channel: Lead poisoning
Screening of young children for Tuberculosis is not practiced in Australia but there are National guidelines for screening contacts of cases to determine whether infection or disease is present. Most of this contact screening is done through the Tuberculosis Control Authority in each state of Australia. By combining an interview, tuberculin skin test (e.g. Mantoux Test) and chest x-ray as appropriate, infected or diseased individuals can be identified.
If infection is suspected there should always be consultation with an expert Tuberculosis physician as there is a high frequency of false negative skin tests in children. The standard regimen for treatment of tuberculosis in Australia is a six-month regimen if there are no complicating features. Children who have a strongly positive skin test but no evidence of disease are given a six to nine month course of preventive therapy to prevent infection from developing into disease.