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COVID test swab

Understanding COVID-19 Tests

Author: CHKD Medical Group, Dr. Sherie Austin
Published Date: Monday, November 22, 2021

By Dr. Sherie Austin, Courthouse Pediatrics

As the pandemic continues, families are navigating COVID-19 testing and quarantine guidelines that vary and change depending on the latest health information.

Several COVID-19 symptoms, such as congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and cough, mimic those a child might experience if they have a cold or the flu. Parents can always call their child’s pediatrician to figure out if they need to have their child tested for COVID-19.

If testing is recommended, it’s important to ask which test is most appropriate for your child’s situation. The information below explains the difference between viral testing (PCR tests and antigen rapid tests) and testing for antibodies.

PCR test

PCR tests are available through many healthcare providers and community testing sites. A PCR test can accurately tell you if your child has COVID-19. The test will detect if your child has the virus at the time the test is taken. The test involves using a nasal swab to collect respiratory material. The swab is sent to a laboratory for testing. It may take a few days to get results.

Antigen rapid test

COVID-19 tests that you can purchase online, at a store, or at the pharmacy are called antigen rapid tests. Antigens are proteins found on the outer shell of the virus. There are many different brands available for these types of tests. Although they are not as accurate as the PCR testing, they can be used at home and do not require any lab testing. Each kit usually contains two tests, which are supposed to be used by one person at least 36 hours apart. Test results are available within minutes.

Antibody testing

Antibody testing is not recommended to determine a current infection. This type of testing can tell whether someone has developed antibodies from a previous infection or from vaccination for the virus that causes COVID-19. Some antibody tests will only detect antibodies from infection, not from vaccination. Children who have a current infection or have been recently infected may have a negative test result for antibodies.

Testing locations

COVID-19 tests are available from many different locations. Visit our website for COVID-19 testing locations and information.

If you and your family are traveling, make sure you’re aware of any testing requirements that might be in place. Not all types of tests are accepted as proof of a negative COVID-19 status.



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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.