If you’re still not sure if your child needs a test, call the pediatrician, said Dr. Kristin Moffitt, an infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital. You can also use the CDC’s clinical assessment tool, which can be used for any family member, including children.
What types of tests are there for children?
Virus tests for children are largely the same as for adults. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the emergency use of two basic categories of diagnostic tests. The most sensitive are those molecular PCR teststhat detect the genetic material of the virus and take days to produce results (some sites offer results in just a day). The second type of test that Antigen test, hunts for fragments of proteins that are on or within the coronavirus. Antigen tests usually give results quickly within 15 minutes, but can be less sensitive than molecular tests.
The way your provider collects your sample may vary. Whether you get a PCR test or an antigen test, the collection method can be one of the following: nasopharyngeal swab (the long swab with a brush on the end that goes up to the nose towards the throat) ;; a shorter swab that is inserted about an inch into the nostrils; a long swab of tonsils in the throat; or a short swab on the gums and cheeks. The new saliva tests, which are still under review, involve drooling into a sterilized container, which can be tricky for young children.
FastMed Urgent Care, which has a network of more than 100 clinics in Arizona, North Carolina, and Texas, currently uses a long swab for the rapid antigen test and a short swab for the PCR test, said Dr. Lane Tassin. one of the company’s chief medical officers. However, MedExpress, another emergency group with clinics in 16 states, tests all patients with the shorter nasal swab when they run either PCR or antigen tests at their nearly 200 emergency centers, said Jane Trombetta, the company’s chief clinical officer.
Jan. 15, 2021, 8:45 p.m. ET
What diagnostic test should my child get?
The type of test your child will get will largely depend on what’s available in your area, how long it will take for the results to come back, and why the child needs them, according to the experts.
Some daycare and schools only accept PCR results so they can return to school. So it is best to check their rules in advance.
The long-swab molecular test is considered the “gold standard”, but other less invasive test methods are also reliable. For routine testing, Dr. Jay K. Varma, senior public health advisor for the New York City Mayor’s office, that the shorter swab “works basically as well as the longer, deeper swab. This applies to both adults and children. In fact, he added, New York City public test sites began to switch from long swabs to short swabs in the summer.