Proper technique for sampling blood lead levels

The best way to check blood lead levels is by taking blood from a vein. Blood may also be taken from a finger stick or heel stick. A heel stick may be done if a baby younger than 9 months old is being tested.

To perform a finger or heel stick, the health professional should be trained in and familiar with the procedure. If exam gloves are coated with powder, they should be rinsed with tap water first.

  • The person's hand or foot is washed thoroughly with soap and water and then dried with a clean, low-lint towel.
  • The finger or heel to be punctured is cleaned with alcohol. Silicone spray may be used to form a protective layer between the skin and the blood drops.
  • The first drop of blood is wiped off with sterile gauze or a cotton ball. Then the small blood tube is held at the puncture site to collect several drops of blood until the tube is at least half full.
  • A small bandage may be placed over the puncture site.

Blood that runs down the finger or onto the fingernail should not be tested.

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