There are a few critical distinctions to keep in mind when reviewing toxicology results of a child versus an adult:
Children testing positive for a substance – other than a prescribed or recommended medical substance or an over-the-counter medication used as directed – require a heightened level of concern.
It is important to remember that based on the type of test and the substance being tested for, a positive drug test result could mean either ingestion of a substance by a child or environmental exposure to a substance. The absence of a positive test of a newborn, child, or adolescent does not mean there was not an exposure.
While a positive test may or may not answer the question of whether or not a child was exposed to a substance, it necessitates further exploration to understand the circumstances and impacts (including clinical symptoms) to the child's health, safety, and well-being. This may include implications for environmental and behavioral risks.
If one child has been exposed to a substance, consider additional children living in the home, or who may have also been exposed or impacted, that need to be assessed during this process.
The testing methods do not change for children, adolescents, or adults. With adolescents, drug exposures can still be unintentional, but concerns for recreational use also need to be considered. As opposed to young children, where exposure is likely either malicious or unintentional.