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Skin Test Facts

A skin test is the only way to tell if you have TB infection. "TB" is short for tuberculosis. TB is spread by tiny germs that can float in the air. TB germs may spray into the air if a person with TB disease coughs or sneezes. Anyone nearby can breathe TB germs into their lungs.

TB germs can stay in your body without making you sick. This is called TB infection. For most people, the body's immune system traps the TB germs.

But sometimes the TB germs can break away. Then they cause TB disease. The TB germs can attack the lungs or other parts of the body. If you have TB infection, you may need medicine that helps you and other people from getting sick with TB.

The TB skin test is usually done on your arm. A small needle is used to put some testing material, called tuberculin, under your skin. In two or three days, a health worker will check to see if there is a reaction to the test.

The TB skin test doesn't make you get TB. It is not a vaccine that prevents TB, like a flu shot helps prevent influenza. But it helps you find out if you have TB infection. Then you and your doctor can help you and other people from getting sick with TB.

The TB skin test is positive if a bump about the size of a pencil eraser or bigger appears on your arm. This bump means you probably have TB infection. Your doctor will give you other tests such as a chest x-ray to make sure you do not have TB disease. You may need medicine to keep you and other people from getting sick.

If you got the BGG vaccine - which is given in some countries but not usually given in the U.S. - you may have a positive reaction to the TB skin test.

If you have HIV infection (the AIDS virus), or other conditions that make the body's immune system not work well, your body may not react to a TB skin test. Your doctor may give you other tests. Also, if you got TB infection very recently, you may not yet react to the TB skin test. Your doctor may give you other tests.

Tell the doctor or health worker if you have ever had a positive reaction to a TB skin test or if you have been given TB drugs before.

Everyone should have a TB skin test at least once and should know whether the reaction was positive or negative. You should also be tested if there is any chance you have been infected with TB germs --- recently or many years ago.

You should be tested more often if you are at high risk of TB infection.

If you have HIV infection, it is very important to get tested for TB infection at least once a year.

Other people at high risk include: people with medical conditions that increase the risk of TB (such as diabetes, the dust disease silicosis, or people undergoing treatment with drugs that affect the body's immune system, such as long-term use of corticosteroids); people from countries with high TB rates; people who do not get medical care, especially in low-income communities; people who work in or are residents of long-term care facilities such as nursing homes, prisons and some hospitals; people who are very underweight; alcoholics and intravenous drug users.

People who are sick with symptoms that can mean TB disease should see a doctor now. These symptoms may include: feeling tired or weak all the time; weight loss; fever; night sweats; long-term cough; chest pain; coughing up blood.

Phone: (815) 740-4420
Fax: (815) 740-4424

503 Ella Avenue
Joliet, Illinois 60433

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