How to Finger Prick to Check Iron Levels

By Amanda Goldfarb

Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is an especially common condition in children and women of childbearing age.Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and pale skin. A small blood sample obtained through a finger prick test--also know as a hemoglobin test or Hgb--is all that is required to determine base iron levels. This test is always performed by a trained technician prior to donating blood. It is also performed by nurses or other trained individuals in most clinics and medical offices.

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Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is an especially common condition in children and women of childbearing age.Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath and pale skin. A small blood sample obtained through a finger prick test--also know as a hemoglobin test or Hgb--is all that is required to determine base iron levels. This test is always performed by a trained technician prior to donating blood. It is also performed by nurses or other trained individuals in most clinics and medical offices.

Wash hands with soap and warm water, paying special attention to areas that hide dirt and germs such as between fingers and under nails. Dry hands thoroughly with a clean cloth or paper towel.

Put on a pair of disposable procedure gloves. With any medical procedure, it is important to maintain body substance isolation procedures by wearing gloves or other personal protective equipment mandated by protocols.

Select a finger to perform the test. Avoid using a finger that is calloused or injured in any way. Choose a bare finger since a ring could constrict circulation.

Press on the selected finger with your gloved thumb. Begin at the knuckle and move to the tip of the finger using a rocking motion. This will help increase blood flow to the fingertip and produce a better sample.

Clean the test area with an alcohol wipe. Alcohol can dilute the sample, causing a false reading, so allow the finger to air dry before performing the finger prick.

Hold the finger with your gloved hand, using gentle pressure to support both the finger and the entire hand.

Use a lancet to make a small puncture on the side of the test finger. Blood should flow freely from the site. Discard the lancet in a sharps container.

Use a sterile gauze pad to wipe away the first drop of blood. The first drop of blood typically contains a high concentration of tissue fluid, which may cause a low reading.

Apply slight pressure to the distal--far end--of the finger to produce a large drop of blood. Avoid squeezing the finger near the puncture site as this will release more tissue fluid into the sample.

Place the tip of the collection device in the center of the blood drop. The blood will be drawn into the tube. To obtain a proper reading, the tube must be completely filled.

Wipe excess blood from the finger and the side of the collection device with gauze. Apply gentle pressure to the puncture site to stop the bleeding.

Inspect the collection device, looking for air bubbles within the sample. Discard the sample if there are air bubbles present in the middle of the sample. Bubbles toward the top of the sample should not affect the reading.

Insert the sample into the testing device or send it to the appropriate laboratory.

Discard any blood-contaminated items in a biohazard bag.

References

About the Author

Amanda Goldfarb became a freelance writer in 2006. She has written many articles for "Oviedo TRI-Lights," "Cool Runnings" and several other health- and fitness-related blogs. She has also contributed to her town's tri-club newsletter. Goldfarb obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Central Florida and is currently pursuing a degree in emergency medical services.

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