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Screening Tests for Infants

Some of the most important screening tests for children are performed at the beginning of life and at regularly scheduled health maintenance visits.

Among the diseases that are routinely tested for at birth are phenylketonuria, galactosemia, sickle-cell anemia, and thyroid deficiency. The blood is collected via a heel stick immediately after birth, and the test is repeated in two weeks, because some of the tests may not become positive until after the infant has been fed for at least 24 hours.

Go here for information on genetic screening . See also the section on the immunisation of your child.


Several tests are used to test vision . In the cover test, which checks for strabismus (cross-eyes), the doctor simply asks your child to stare at an object and then covers one eye with a hand, noting whether the other eye must move to focus on the object. If it does, strabismus may be a problem. Once your child is about 30 to 36 months of age or older, strabismus may be tested with a random-dot steriogram, in which the child is asked to identify a three-dimensional E among dots on a card.

When your child is 4 or 5, the doctor may use the standard eye chart to test his or her ability to read letters or indicate the direction of characters from a standard distance (see chapter 18). If the child seems to have difficulty, the physician may recommend a more comprehensive examination by an ophthalmologist.


Your child's ability to hear sounds of varying frequency and volume is also assessed periodically. The doctor will use a simple, painless technique called tympanography to measure the eardrum's absorption of sound under different air pressures in the external ear canal. The result is a graphic printout called a tympanogram. Once the child is 4 to 5 years old, he or she will be tested using pure-tone audiometry , the delivery to each ear of the same tone over several different frequencies. Many school systems also schedule this kind of hearing test to screen for potential educational difficulties.
See also hearing development .

Developmental Skills

Motor , speech, language, and interpersonal skills are assessed using standard indicators such as the Denver Developmental Screening Test. The doctor compares the child's ability to perform skills and respond to questions against that of other children of the same age. If the child does not function at the appropriate developmental level for his or her age, the doctor may suggest a referral for formal developmental testing. Parents are often involved in the assessment by means of a questionnaire regarding the child's motor, language, and interpersonal skills.
See also sensory & perceptual development .

Laboratory Tests

Screening tests may require performing a blood test for hidden conditions such as lead poisoning. Iron-deficiency anemia is routinely screened for in the blood at 1 year. A skin test for tuberculosis is performed at 1 year and every two to three years after that, following the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP also recommends a screening urinalysis at 2 years and a urine culture for girls at 3, 5, and 8 years of age. These are all simple tests that are relatively inexpensive and do not cause a great deal of discomfort but can reveal underlying conditions that may be present but not producing symptoms.

Click here for a schedule of recommended screening tests .

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. The Yale University School of Medicine Patient's Guide to Medical Tests, Barry L. Zaret M.D., Senior Editor, published by Houghton Mifflin. Online:

Other HON resources 
   From MedHunt

Screening Tests in Children & Infants
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Contact Last modified: Oct 20 2004