If you’re still not sure if your child needs a test, call a pediatrician, said Dr. Christine Moffitt, an infectious disease specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital. You can also get the CDC Clinical Assessment Tool, which can be used for any family member, including children.
What types of tests are available for children?
Virus tests for children are for the most part the same as for adults. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the urgent use of two main categories of diagnostic test. They are the most sensitive molecular PCR teststhat detect the genetic material of the virus and can take days to produce results (some sites only offer results for a day). The second type of test, antigen test, hunts for fragments of proteins that are on or within the coronavirus. Antigen tests usually give results quickly, within 15 minutes, but may be less sensitive than molecular tests.
The way your supplier collects your sample may vary. For example, whether you receive a PCR test or an antigen test, the collection method can be any of the following: a nasopharyngeal swab (the long swab with a brush at the end that reaches all the way to the nose to the throat); a shorter swab that is inserted about an inch into the nostrils; long tampon of the tonsils in the back of the throat; or a short swab curled over the gums and cheeks. New saliva tests, which are still being tested, require drooling in a sterilized container, which can be difficult for young children.
Currently, FastMed Urgent Care, which has a network of more than 100 clinics in Arizona, North Carolina and Texas, uses a long swab to perform a rapid antigen test and a short swab for PCR testing, said Dr. Lane Tassin. one of the company’s chief medical staff. But MedExpress, a different emergency group with clinics in 16 countries, tests all patients with a shorter nasal swab when doing PCR or antigen tests at its nearly 200 emergency centers, said Jane Trombeta, the company’s chief clinical officer.
Which diagnostic test should my child take?
The type of test your child receives will largely depend on what is available in your area, how long it takes for the results to return, and why the child needs it, experts say.
Some day care centers and schools will only accept PCR results for permission to return to school, so it’s best to check their rules in advance.
The long swab molecular test is considered the “gold standard”, but other less invasive testing methods are also reliable. For routine testing, Dr. J. K. Warma, a senior public health adviser in the New York mayor’s office, said the shorter tampon “works basically like the longer, deeper tampon.” This applies to both adults and children. “In fact,” he added, “testing sites in public hospitals in New York began to shift from a long tampon to a short tampon in the summer.