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Tuberculin Skin Test in Children: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that can damage the lungs or other parts of the body. The TB skin test can tell if your child has TB bacteria in his or her body. Many people are exposed to TB and test positive for TB bacteria in their bodies, but they don't get the disease. TB bacteria can stay in your child's body without making him or her sick. This is because your child's immune system can keep TB in check.

Your doctor may want your child to have a TB skin test if your child has been in close contact with someone who has TB. Or your child may need the test if he or she has symptoms that might be caused by TB, such as a cough that doesn't go away, a fever, or weight loss.

During the skin test, part of a TB bacterium is injected under your child's skin. The test will feel like a skin prick. If your child has TB bacteria in his or her body, a firm red bump will form at the shot site within 2 days. If the test shows that your child is infected with TB (TB-positive), the doctor probably will order more tests. A TB-positive skin test can't tell when your child became infected with TB. And it can't tell whether the infection can be passed to others.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Do not let your child scratch the test site. Scratching it may cause redness or swelling. This could affect the test results.
  • To ease itching, put a cold face cloth on the site. Then pat the site dry.
  • Do not cover the test site with a bandage or other dressing.
  • Go back to the doctor's office or hospital to have the test read on the follow-up date. This must be done between 48 and 72 hours after your child gets the shot.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You did not have your child's TB skin test checked by your doctor.
  • Your child has a fever or has swelling in his or her arm.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.