Tuberculin Skin Test: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

The lungs

Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that can damage the lungs or other parts of the body. The TB skin test can tell if you have TB bacteria in your 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 body without making you sick. This is because your immune system can keep TB in check.

Your doctor may want you to have a TB skin test if you have been in close contact with someone who has TB. Or you may need the test if you have symptoms that might be caused by TB, such as a cough that does not go away, a fever, or weight loss. You also may get the test if you are a health care worker.

During the skin test, part of a TB bacterium is injected under your skin. The test will feel like a skin prick. If you have TB bacteria in your body, a firm red bump will form at the shot site within 2 days. If the test shows that you are infected with TB (positive), your doctor probably will order more tests. A TB-positive skin test can't tell when you 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 treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Do not 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 your 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 you get the shot.

When should you call for help?

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

  • You did not have your TB skin test checked by your doctor.
  • You have a fever or swelling in your arm.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: May 24, 2016