COVID-19 Testing

At Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, we understand that parents with sick children may want to know if their child's symptoms are due to COVID-19. Testing may be available at your pediatrician's office, our appointment-only, drive-thru testing site with an order from your child's pediatrician or at one of the following alternative COVID-19 testing locationsNote: 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.

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.

Remember that good hand hygiene, as well as 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.

Is Children’s performing COVID-19 testing?

Children's is performing COVID-19 testing for patients who are:

  • Undergoing certain complex surgeries or procedures in which air droplets are easily transferred.
  • Hospitalized in general care areas and 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.
  • Referred to our appointment-only, drive-thru testing site by a community physician or subspecialty provider. This appointment-only testing site is currently available to referring providers through May 2021 and appointments require an order from a physician. Contact your child’s pediatrician for more details and refer to the what to expect guidance for more information.

Alternatively, your child may be tested outside of Children's at one of the following alternative COVID-19 testing locations. Note: 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.

My child is scheduled for a surgery or procedure. What do I need to know about pre-surgical testing?

Children’s requires COVID-19 testing prior to surgery in certain situations, such as a complex surgery or a procedure where 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.  

My child’s daycare, summer camp, school or sports team requires COVID-19 testing. Where should he be tested?

Your community pediatrician or subspecialty provider may refer your child for testing at our appointment-only, drive thru testing site. A physician order is required to obtain an appointment.

Alternatively, your child may be tested outside of Children's at one of the following alternative COVID-19 testing locations. Note: 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.

My child has respiratory symptoms but does not require medical care. What should I do?

The majority of people infected with COVID-19, including children, can safely recover with supportive care at home, which may include keeping your child hydrated, using fever-reducing medication (as recommended by your pediatrician) and encouraging bed rest. If your child has respiratory symptoms but is otherwise well, please consider managing your child’s symptoms at home and contacting your doctor immediately, if your child worsens.

Note: if your child has a fever or cough, we highly recommend that your child stay home until the fever and other symptoms are gone for 24 hours. Staying home while sick protects your friends, loved ones and members of your community, some of whom may be at higher risk for illness.

Learn more about how flu, COVID-19 and cold symptoms here.

What are the different types of COVID-19 testing?

There are two types of COVID-19 tests:

  • Molecular tests for a current SARS-CoV-2 infection—most often 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. A positive test result must be considered in combination with symptoms or a known exposure to someone with COVID-19.
    • Some molecular tests are point-of-care tests, meaning results may be available at the testing site within a few hours. Other tests must be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed, a process that could take a couple of days before a result is available.
  • An antibody or serologic test checks your blood by looking for antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, which can be present after an infection.

Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and usually provide protection against getting that disease again (immunity); however, 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 COVID-19 testing be considered?

Symptomatic people—those with symptoms–may warrant COVID-19 testing if they have the following:

  • 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

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 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 any infection.

Does Children’s offer drive-thru testing?

To provide testing that is specially designed for children ages 0 to 21, Children's has set up an appointment-only, drive-thru testing site at Children's at Satellite Boulevard for symptomatic and asymptomatic patients who have an order from a Children's-affiliated physician. The site is located in the parking lot at 2660 Satellite Blvd., Duluth, GA 30096.

The following symptoms may warrant COVID-19 testing: brief episode of fever, cough, sore throat, abdominal pain, new loss of taste and smell and congestion. Appointments will be made only after an order is provided by a community physician and a Children's scheduler reaches out to a parent. This location is available now through May 2021.

After a Children’s nurse collects the specimen, the diagnostic testing will be conducted by Children's and results will be delivered to the ordering provider electronically and to the patient and family through MYchart within 48 hours. Contact your child's pediatrician for more details.

Because of the collection site's success in 2020, Children's is partnering with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) initiative for testing validation through the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) Program, a federal initiative designed to provide widely accessible COVID-19 diagnostic testing. Participating in this research enables Children's to offer continued COVID-19 testing services to the community and the opportunity for patients to voluntarily participate in this impactful research study.

What can parents expect at the appointment-only drive-thru site?

Learn more about the COVID-19 appointment-only, drive-thru testing site here. Your community or subspecialty provider will need to send an order to Children’s for your child to be tested. After Children’s receives the order, a scheduler will reach out to find a time for your specimen collection appointment. 

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 offsite for testing.

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.

How long does it take until results are available for the COVID-19 viral 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.

If my child receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, should we go see my child’s pediatrician?

If your child tests positive for COVID-19, 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 improving symptoms. Positive results will be reported to the Georgia Department of Public Health (GPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We do recommend you call your provider and let them know that your child tested positive.

If your child develops symptoms that require medical care, including difficulty breathing, inability to take fluids or oter symptoms that concern you, contact your child’s pediatrician. If your pediatrician feels you need hospital care, they will contact us and we will direct your arrival into our facility to avoid exposures to others. If you feel your child has a life-threatening emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.


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 alternative sites for COVID-19 testing if you need proof of a negative test result for your child’s participation in sports.