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Iron Tests

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KEY POINTS

  • Iron tests are blood tests that measure both the amount of iron in your child’s blood and the body's ability to use iron. Iron tests are used to diagnose some diseases or find out why your child is anemic.
  • A small amount of blood is taken from a vein in your child’s arm with a needle. In younger children, this test can be done with a finger prick or heel stick. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.
  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about what the test results mean and ask any questions you have.

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What are iron tests?

Iron tests are blood tests that measure both the amount of iron in your child’s blood and the body's ability to use iron.

Why is this test done?

Iron is a mineral that is important to all cells in the body. Iron helps blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the body. Iron helps your child’s body digest food. It is important in growth and muscle development and brain function.

The iron tests may help:

  • Find out why your child is anemic. Anemia means your child doesn't have enough blood cells to carry oxygen to the cells in the body, or the blood cells are not normal and can't carry oxygen well.
  • Diagnose some diseases such as liver disease or a disease that affects iron levels, such as celiac disease
  • Check if your child has a dangerous buildup of iron in the body caused by disease or iron poisoning

How do I prepare my child for this test?

  • Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you when your child needs to stop eating and drinking before the test. Food and drink before the test may affect the results. Your child should not drink juices with vitamin C, such as orange or grapefruit juice, for 3 days before the test.
  • Your child may need to avoid taking certain medicines before the test because they might affect the test result. Make sure your child’s healthcare provider knows about any medicines, herbs, or supplements that she is taking. Ask your child’s provider before stopping any of your child’s regular medicines. Your child should not take iron or vitamin C supplements for 3 days before the test.
  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test.

How is the test done?

Having this test will take just a few minutes. A small amount of blood is taken from your child’s arm with a needle. The blood is collected in tubes and sent to a lab.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider when and how you will get the results of your child’s test.

What do the test results mean?

Results that are higher or lower than normal may mean that your child has:

  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Long-term blood loss
  • An inability to use iron
  • Liver disease from infection
  • Too much iron in her diet
  • A buildup of iron in the body

What if my child’s test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your child’s medical history and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about your child’s results and ask questions such as:

  • If your child needs more tests
  • What kind of treatment your child might need
  • What lifestyle, diet, or other changes your child might need to make
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2018-07-25
Last reviewed: 2017-05-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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