Pediatric Lead Toxicity Clinical Presentation

Updated: May 16, 2022
  • Author: Mohamed K Badawy, MD, FAAP; Chief Editor: Stephen L Thornton, MD  more...
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The clinical picture associated with lead poisoning is vague. Symptoms are not specific enough to alarm the physician about lead toxicity. Most cases are currently identified through effective screening of the population at risk. However, patients with lead poisoning frequently have constipation, abdominal pain, and/or anorexia.

Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms of lead poisoning include the following:

  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain

Neurobehavioral changes observed in lead poisoning include the following:

  • Inattentiveness
  • Distractibility
  • Impulsiveness
  • Learning problems

Peripheral nervous system effects (rare in children) associated with lead poisoning include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Peripheral palsies

Physical Examination

No specific physical signs for lead poisoning are recognized, but patients may exhibit pallor (due to associated anemia) and hyperactivity.

Signs of increased intracranial pressure can include the following:

  • Impaired consciousness
  • Bradycardia
  • Hypertension
  • Respiratory depression
  • Papilledema
  • Coma