What Is C-Reactive Protein in Children?

Doctor examining baby
Baby at the pediatrician (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

C-reactive protein or CRP is a protein produced by the liver that can be measured in a child's blood. Levels of CRP rise when there is an infection or inflammation in the body, according to MedlinePlus. CRP test results are important because they can enable the doctor to determine if your child has an infection or inflammation.

Medical Conditions

If your child has undergone surgery, the doctor may order a CRP test to monitor wound healing and for any acute infections that may occur after surgery, according to Dayton Children's Medical Center. If your child has elevated CRP levels several days after surgery, the doctor may suspect an infection and order other tests. The CRP test may also be used to assess your child for medical conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, tuberculosis, pneumonia, lupus, rheumatic fever and cancer, according to MedlinePlus.

Treatment Effectiveness

The doctor may also order CRP testing to determine if the prescribed treatments for infections or inflammation are working, according to Dayton Children's Medical Center. If the treatment is working, CRP levels will drop. If the CRP levels continue to rise, the doctor will most likely prescribe other treatments. If your child has frequent infections, the CRP test is useful in keeping track of infections.

Limitations

Unfortunately, a CRP test is not specific enough to diagnose a specific disease in a child. The test may indicate the presence of an infection or inflammation, but the test does not show the cause and location of the infection or inflammation. If CRP test results of your child are positive, the doctor will most likely order further testing for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Procedure

To have this test done, an elastic band will be wrapped around your child's upper arm to cause the arm veins to swell with blood, MedlinePlus explains. Blood will be drawn from a vein and collected in a syringe. The elastic band will be removed, the doctor will apply pressure on the puncture site and later place a bandage to stop bleeding. The blood sample will then be processed in a lab. The CRP test is unlikely to produce adverse side effects in your child. Minor side effects from having blood drawn for the test include pain and redness at the injection site and bruising. No special preparation is needed for this test, other than having your child wear a short-sleeve shirt.

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