COVID-19 Update

Employee wearing a mask

At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we understand that parents with sick children may want to know if their children’s symptoms are due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 testing for kids may be available at:

Most children with mild symptoms do not need to be tested for COVID-19 unless results will alter their care. Children’s will reserve specimen collection at our Emergency Departments, Urgent Care Centers and ambulatory clinics for diagnostic testing of children whose disease management will be impacted by results or for whom our public health partners deem testing is needed.

Children's COVID-19 PCR Testing Site

  • No cost
  • Drive-thru or walk-up
  • Be a part of innovative COVID-19 research.

Children's and Emory University have collaborated with Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and Viral Solutions to bring convenient PCR COVID-19 testing to your kids and teens. Having a PCR test through this site will also contribute to crucial research through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) RADx Program. This pediatric-friendly testing site is open to the general public and provides testing for kids and adults who are symptomatic or have been exposed to COVID-19.


Frederick Douglass High School
225 Hamilton E. Holmes Drive NW
Atlanta, GA 30318


Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Who can get tested for COVID-19 at Children’s?

Children’s is currently performing COVID-19 testing for patients from birth to age 21 who are:

  • Undergoing certain complex surgeries or procedures in which air droplets are easily transferred.
  • Hospitalized in general care areas and who meet certain enhanced care criteria because their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19. Children’s may determine that a patient needs to be tested based on symptoms and temperature recorded during a wellness screening.

How can I prevent my kids from getting COVID-19?

Remember that good hand hygiene, wearing masks and social distancing at least 6 feet when possible remain the best ways to prevent COVID-19 and the spread of all respiratory viruses.

*Children’s provides these testing sites for your convenience, not as an endorsement or recommendation. Children’s has not validated the type of test performed at each site.

What are the different types of COVID-19 testing?

Not all COVID-19 tests are created equal. There are multiple kinds of diagnostic or viral tests, which check nasal mucous or saliva—most often by a swab of the inside of the nose—that can tell if you have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in your nose.

The two most common COVID-19 diagnostic tests are:

  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test: This is a molecular test that looks at genetic material and is often referred to as the gold standard of COVID-19 tests. It is the most accurate test out there, but it can take a while to get the results back, as they are often sent to a laboratory to analyze and process.
  • Antigen test: Also called a rapid test, this test is less reliable and typically gives results in less than an hour.

Another kind of testing may help you determine whether you’ve previously contracted COVID-19:

  • Antibody/serologic tests: These tests check your blood by looking for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, which can be present after an infection.

What are antibodies?

Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and usually provide protection against getting that disease again (immunity).

At this time, it is unclear if testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies indicates immunity. Antibodies are disease specific. Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, we may not find antibodies in someone with an active early COVID-19 infection.

Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose COVID-19.

When should testing be considered for COVID-19?

Symptomatic children and teens with the following symptoms may warrant COVID-19 testing:

  • Cough
  • Brief episode of fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache

If your child develops a fever or cough, use our COVID-19 Pediatric Assessment Tool, designed to help parents answer two questions:

  • What should I do if my child has a fever and/or a cough?
  • What should I do if my child has been around someone with COVID-19, but my child has no symptoms?


Testing for COVID-19 is constantly evolving. A nasal swab test detects genetic material that makes up the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the COVID-19 infection. This genetic material from the virus can be detected in children who do and do not have symptoms. We are still learning whether detection of the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus means that a child can spread infection.

The nasal swab test is most useful to help understand if the symptoms that a child has could be due to COVID-19.

There may be other situations when testing may be recommended by your child’s physician or by a public health agency. Check with your child’s physician for guidance, especially if your child has a medical condition that may place her at a higher risk for complications from any infection.

How do I prepare my child for a COVID-19 viral test using a swab?

A nurse will conduct a nasopharyngeal swab, meaning she will insert a swab deep inside of your child’s nose to collect the specimen and send off-site for testing.

If your child is tested at Children’s, our nurses use kid-size swabs and are trained to explain the process to children and teens so that they feel comfortable and safe during the test. Please inform us before the test if your child has any medical reason that would prevent us from getting the nasal swab, such as a blockage in the nose. While your child might experience slight discomfort with this procedure, it is necessary to collect an adequate specimen.

There may be other situations when testing may be recommended by your child’s physician or by a public health agency. Check with your child’s physician for guidance, especially if your child has a medical condition that may place him at a higher risk for complications from an infection.

How long does it take until results are available for the PCR test for active infection?

Testing result times vary based on the test and the lab. While some tests are point-of-care tests, meaning results may be available at the testing site in less than an hour, other tests must be sent to a laboratory to analyze, which may take longer due to the time required to transport samples and notify your physician of the result. This process can require between two and five days to deliver results once received by the lab.

There will be some instances in which medical providers decide to test your child for COVID-19. Or you may be hoping to get your child a COVID-19 test not because of illness but because a school or day care requires it. Here’s how it works in those situations.

What do I need to know about pre-surgical COVID-19 testing?

If your child is scheduled for a surgery or procedure, a pre-surgery COVID-19 test may be required. Children’s requires COVID-19 testing prior to surgery in certain situations, such as a complex surgery or a procedure in which air droplets are easily transferred. Select patients will be tested for COVID-19 prior to surgery in certain situations. Your child’s doctor will determine whether pre-surgery COVID-19 testing is needed, and a scheduler will reach out to notify you if pre-surgical testing is required.


Where should my child go for required COVID-19 testing for school, day care or sports?

If your child’s day care, summer camp, school or sports team requires COVID-19 testing, you can have your child tested outside of Children’s at one of the following COVID-19 testing locations.*

Can I request that a COVID-19 test be a part of my child’s sports physical exam?

While you may request a COVID-19 test, many community pediatricians providing sports physical exams do not have the capacity to test patients for COVID-19 at this time. And if they do have tests, they may need to limit the use of these tests to their high-risk and symptomatic patients.

Refer to the list of sites for COVID-19 testing* if you need proof of a negative test result for your child’s participation in sports.

*Children’s provides these testing sites for your convenience, not as an endorsement or recommendation. Children’s has not validated the type of test performed at each site.

If my child receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, should we go to the doctor?

If your child tests positive, he needs to remain at home in isolation until at least 10 days from the first date of your child’s symptoms, or 10 days from the date of your child’s test if there are no symptoms, and 24 hours without fever, without the use of fever-reducing medicines, and after improving symptoms. Follow the updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines for more information.

We do recommend you call your provider and let her know that your child tested positive.

Most children with COVID-19 infections have mild symptoms and do not require medical care. For the safety of your child—and so we can continue to focus on treating children who need care most—consider managing your child’s symptoms at home. Supportive care at home includes keeping your child hydrated, using fever-reducing medicine (children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen) and encouraging bed rest.

If your child develops symptoms that require medical care, including difficulty breathing, inability to take fluids or symptoms that concern you, contact your child’s pediatrician or call 404-785-KIDS (5437).

If your child is having difficulty breathing, or if you feel your child has a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.