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Dr. Alan Greene on PPD Tests

Question

Our pediatrician wants to give my 9-month-old daughter a PPD shot. He told me that not all doctors give it. Should I get it done? What does it do or prevent?

Answer

The PPD is a skin test to check if a child has been exposed to tuberculosis (TB). The test doesn't do or prevent anything -- it's just a test. It is not dangerous to give. If the test area becomes reddened or hardened (it is checked a couple days later), it can indicate exposure to TB. Sometimes there are false positive results, so some kids end up getting medications needlessly.

Years ago, this test was recommended for all kids, but it's now only recommended in a few specific situations:

  • People with known exposure to someone with TB
  • Kids who have traveled to countries with lots of TB
  • Children with HIV or family members with HIV
  • Homeless children
  • Foster children
  • People who live in a high-risk neighborhood or county
  • Migrant farm workers
  • Health-care workers (I get it every year)

There is no benefit for otherwise healthy kids, and continuing to give it routinely is just a holdover from the past. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends against routinely testing children under 1 year old, and recommends doing it at age 4 to 6, and again at age 11 to 16, if the child lives in a high-risk area. Your local health department will know if you live in a high-risk area.

 

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.