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Why we screen babies by heel prick

The conditions the heel prick screens for are very rare, but treatable if detected early in life. That's why we screen your baby when they're just 3 to 5 days old.

Most babies born in Ireland will not have any of the 8 rare but serious conditions that the heel prick checks for.

For the very small numbers of babies who do, detecting a condition early has huge benefits. It means we can treat your baby early, which can improve their health and prevent severe disability or even death.

Most of the conditions we screen for show no obvious signs and symptoms immediately after birth. Often there is no family history.

Without screening these conditions may not be obvious until later in infancy. Screening can help to find out if your baby has one of these conditions before they start to show any symptoms.

Why we screen at 3 to 5 days

All babies must have started feeding for a certain length of time before we can screen them, otherwise the results may not be accurate.

Since some of the conditions can make the baby sick relatively quickly, it is best to have the heel prick done before your baby is over 5 days old.

Conditions we screen for

Find out more about the 8 conditions we screen for:

Page last reviewed: 28/11/2018
Next review due: 28/11/2021