Heel Prick Test / Guthrie Test Side Effects
There are two types of heel pricks: The first one is called “The Heel Prick Test” or simply “HPT”. This test involves inserting a needle into your foot and injecting iodine solution (usually sodium thiosulphate) into the skin at the base of your big toe. The second type of heel prick is called “Guthrie Test”, which is performed using a long needle and a small syringe containing a liquid substance.
The mixture used for guthrie test consists of iodine and water. There’s no evidence that one test is more effective than the other. Heel prick tests are done to babies when they’re a few days old and then every two to three days until they’re about a month old. Your baby’s heel is pricked and a few drops of blood are put onto a special card. The card changes color if there are jaundice or a sign of an infection, such as flu. Your baby may have a slightly swollen foot after the test, but this soon goes away. Your baby may cry for a few minutes during or after the procedure. The heel prick test is completely painless because babies do not feel pain in the same way that adults do.
Heel prick tests are recommended for all babies born in Australia. The test is used to check for two different conditions. One of these conditions is called neonatal jaundice.
This is when a baby’s blood contains a higher level of a substance called bilirubin than is normal. Bilirubin is a natural substance that the body produces when it breaks down old red blood cells. A buildup of this substance in the blood can cause a yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (called jaundice). This condition can be treated with light and sometimes a medicine. The other condition that heel prick tests can check for is called infection in baby. Infection in baby is more common than neonatal jaundice. It occurs when a baby contracts an infection in the first few weeks of life. Doctors don’t know exactly why some babies get this infection, but it can be treated with antibiotics.
A lot of parents are unsure about having their baby’s heel pricked. They may worry that it’s painful, but babies can’t feel pain in the way that adults do.
What to expect
Most babies don’t even notice when their heel is pricked. The only thing they may notice is that their foot might feel a little cold after the test. Your doctor or nurse will clean the foot after it’s pricked.
You can usually take your baby home as soon as the test is finished.
Heel prick tests are very safe.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Making heel pricks less painful. (VA Harpin, N Rutter – Archives of Disease in Childhood, 1983 – adc.bmj.com)
- Comparison of sucrose, expressed breast milk, and breast-feeding on the neonatal response to heel prick (H Bilgen, E Özek, D Cebeci, R Örs – The Journal of Pain, 2001 – Elsevier)
- Scald injury from the Guthrie test: should the heel be warmed? (Z Hassan, M Shah – Archives of Disease in Childhood-Fetal and …, 2005 – fn.bmj.com)
- Convective burn from use of hairdryer for heel warming prior to the heel prick test-a case report (R Ray, Y Godwin, A Shepherd – BMC pediatrics, 2011 – bmcpediatr.biomedcentral.com)
- The use and control of heel prick blood samples (C Thomas – Med. & L., 2005 – HeinOnline)
- A Scottish study of heel-prick blood sampling in newborn babies (AJ Shepherd, A Glenesk, CA Niven, J Mackenzie – Midwifery, 2006 – Elsevier)