Did you know? Newborn screening panels check your baby for 47 health conditions

All babies born in Idaho are screened for 47 conditions before they ever even leave the hospital and go home for the first time. It’s all done in a simple blood test called the Newborn Screen Test.

Sounds like a football play. Is that a new procedure?

Idaho has been screening its babies since 1963. Initially, the test screened only for PKU, which could cause irreversible mental damage if not diagnosed. Since then, 46 other conditions have been added to the Idaho screening panel, including Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, which was added just this year. Nationally, newborn screening saves or improves the lives of 12,000 babies each year. In Idaho, one baby in 500 will be affected by these conditions. 

Is the screening done on every newborn?

That is the law. Parents who have a religious objection can decline the screening. But it would be a good idea to discuss it with a doctor before you do that, because early detection of these conditions can save your child’s life.

How do parents find out about the screening results?

Your doctor or clinic will be informed about any abnormal results. Two screens are mandated by law in Idaho. The first is done when a baby is 24-48 hours old. The second is done at 10-14 days, because 10 percent of the problems aren’t found until then. Babies in the NICU will have three screens. Parents are notified only if there is a potential problem, and then the baby will be retested to be sure the results are the same. You should be sure to ask about the results when you take your baby to the doctor for his or her first checkup. Even with the screening, regular checkups are still very important.

Why is it so important to have the screening done right after birth?

Screening is done on newborns because it’s possible that a healthy-looking baby might have a life-changing medical condition that could even cause death if it’s not caught fairly quickly. The hope is that a disorder can be discovered before it has had time to cause damage.

If a baby has one of the disorders, can it be cured?

It can’t be cured any more than other physical characteristics like eye or hair color can be changed. But serious side effects can be decreased and even completely prevented if a special diet or other treatment is started early enough.

Is the collected sample used for anything other than the screening?

Samples are used only for testing for these conditions, unless written permission has been obtained from the parents for any other use.

(Note: This is an edited transcript of a segment called A Closer Look At Your Health, which airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This segment aired on Aug. 30.) 

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