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Stress. 2008 Jan;11(1):1-14. Epub 2007 Jul 16.

Measurement and meaning of salivary cortisol: a focus on health and disease in children.

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Henry Wellcome Laboratories for Integrative Neuroscience and Endocrinology, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.


Measurement of salivary cortisol can provide important information about hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity under normal conditions and in response to stress. However, there are many variables relating to the measurement of cortisol in saliva which may introduce error and therefore may render difficult the comparison and interpretation of data between, and within, laboratories. This review addresses the effects of gender, age, time and location of sampling, units of measurement, assay conditions and compliance with the protocol, all of which have the potential to impact upon the precision, accuracy and reliability of salivary cortisol measurements in the literature. Some of these factors are applicable to both adults and children, but the measurement of salivary cortisol in children introduces aspects of unique variability which demand special attention. The specific focus of this review is upon the somewhat neglected area of methodological variability of salivary cortisol measurement in children. In addition to these methodological issues, the review highlights the use of salivary cortisol measurements to provide information about HPA axis dysfunction associated with psycho- and patho-physiological conditions in children. Novel applications for salivary cortisol measurements in future research into HPA axis activity in children are also discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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