With coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on the rise, you may be contemplating a COVID-19 test for your child. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the test. Be sure to also read our article on preparing your child for a coronavirus test.

What kinds of COVID-19 tests are available for my child?

There are two types of tests for COVID-19: Tests to detect the virus and tests to detect if your child has the antibody to the virus.

There are two types of tests to detect the virus:

  1.  Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR or PCR) tests,
  2.  Antigen tests (a.k.a. rapid test).

These tests differ in how they detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19, how quickly the results are available and in their accuracy in detecting the virus.

COVID-19 antibody tests look for antibody proteins produced against COVID -19 by your immune system. COVID-19 antibody tests are not recommended for all children as their accuracy is not yet established.

Do you recommend I take advantage of a rapid test for my child when their pediatrician’s office is closed?

Rapid COVID-19 antigen tests typically provide a result in 15 minutes and are accurate when the result is positive. However, negative COVID-19 rapid tests may need to be repeated by PCR test since rapid tests are not as sensitive in detecting the virus (e.g. more false negatives). If your child is sick, a positive rapid test can be helpful as you can begin your child’s isolation and notification of people your child may have interacted with who will also need to quarantine. If your child is asymptomatic, your provider may recommend additional testing by COVID-19 PCR which is better at detecting the virus.

COVID-19 PCR test results may take about 2 days. However these tests are more accurate for ruling out infection (fewer false negatives and false positives).

Will it hurt for my child to get a COVID-19 viral test?

COVID-19 PCR viral test samples may be collected by nasal swab, nasopharyngeal swab, oropharyngeal swab, and even saliva. Your provider will probably recommend the specimen collection type that will lead to the most successful collection based on your child’s age and other considerations. The sampling is brief with minimal discomfort experienced during collection.

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