This article was last reviewed on
This article waslast modified on 5 December 2018.

In medicine, a screening test is a test that is performed when there are no signs or symptoms of disease. Without symptoms of disease, children generally do not need many laboratory screening tests. Preventive services for children emphasize immunisation and prevention of accidents and injuries as well as counselling on development of healthy eating and exercise habits. In addition to immunisation boosters, vaccination for tuberculosis is offered between the ages of 10 and 14 following patch testing (see the NHS vaccination schedule). Height, weight, blood pressure, and 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 the whole population of children without symptoms of disease, some screening tests may be recommended based on known risk factors. This is called "Targeted Screening".

  • High cholesterol

    Population Screening for hypercholesterolaemia in children has been suggested, but is currently not recommended in the UK. 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
    • a family history of 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 5.5mmol/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.

  • Lead poisoning

    An environmental hazard, lead can damage the brain and other organs. Currently, the UK National Screening Committee does not recommend screening for lead poisoning. However, Government efforts to reduce exposure have resulted in a fall in the levels of lead in the blood of the UK 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.

  • Tuberculosis

    Screening of young children for tuberculosis is not practiced in the UK but there are National guidelines for screening contacts of cases to determine whether infection or disease is present. By combining an interview, tuberculin skin test and chest x-ray as appropriate infected or diseased individuals can be identified. Those who are found to have disease are treated with a six-month course of antibiotics. Children who have a strongly positive skin test but no evidence of disease are given a three-month course of preventive therapy to prevent infection from developing into disease.