COVID-19 Testing

Most children with COVID-19 infections have mild symptoms, such as fever and cough, and do not require medical care.

We understand that parents with sick children at home may want their child to be tested for COVID-19; however, most children who are mildly or moderately ill with “cold-like” symptoms do not need to be tested. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, diagnosis through laboratory testing for COVID-19 infection does not change the care a patient would receive. So, whether your child tests positive or negative, unless your child is very sick, your healthcare provider’s treatment will remain the same.

Please note, your child should not be brought to the Emergency departments or Urgent Cares for routine COVID-19 testing. For most with mild symptoms, testing is not necessary and does not alter the course of clinical management or at-home supportive 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.

As our capacity to test changes, laboratory testing can be an important step in understanding and containing COVID-19 and protecting vulnerable populations. Your child can be tested outside of Children's at one of the following alternative COVID-19 testing locations. Please note, Children's provides these testing sites as a recommendation, not an endorsement. Children's has not yet validated the type of test performed at each site.

Please remember that good hand hygiene, as well as masks and social distancing when appropriate, remain the best ways to prevent infection with and spread of COVID –19.

Is Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta performing COVID-19 testing?

Children's is currently testing for COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. Patients may be tested in the following situations:

  • Patients who undergo certain complex surgeries or procedures where air droplets are easily transferred. 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.
  • Hospitalized patients in general care areas 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.
  • Patients who are referred to our appointment-only mobile collection site by a community physician or subspecialty provider. This pilot appointment-only collection site is currently available to referring providers through June and appointments require an order from a physician. Please contact your child’s pediatrician for more details and refer to the what to expect guidance for more information.

Alternatively, your child can be tested outside of Children's at one of the following alternative COVID-19 testing locationsPlease note, Children's provides these testing sites as a recommendation, not an endorsement. Children's has not yet 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. Visit choa.org/surgery for more information.

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

Your community pediatrician or subspecialty provider may refer your child for testing at our appointment-only mobile collection site. A physician referral is required to obtain an appointment.

Alternatively, your child can be tested outside of Children's at one of the following alternative COVID-19 testing locations. Please note, Children's provides these testing sites as a recommendation, not an endorsement. Children's has not yet 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 72 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.

What are the different types of COVID-19 testing?

There are two types of COVID-19 tests:

  • The COVID-19 viral PCR test for active infection—most often a swab of the inside of the nose—checks samples from your respiratory system (such as swabs of the inside of the nose) to tell you if you currently have an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Some tests are point-of-care tests, meaning results may be available at the testing site within in hours. Other tests must be sent to a laboratory to analyze, a process that takes one to two days once received by the lab.
  • The antibody/serologic test checks your blood by looking for antibodies, which can show if you had a past infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Antibodies are proteins that help fight off infections and usually provide protection against getting that disease again (immunity); however, at this time due to the novelty of this virus, it is unclear if testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies indicates immunity. Antibodies are disease specific. For example, measles antibody will protect a person who is exposed again to measles but will have no effect if the person is exposed to mumps. Depending on when someone was infected and the timing of the test, the test may not find antibodies in someone with a current COVID-19 infection.

Antibody tests should not be used to diagnose COVID-19. To see if you are currently infected, you need a viral test. Viral tests identify the virus in samples from your respiratory system, such as swabs from the inside of your nose.

Who needs to get tested?

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

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever and nausea, fever and diarrhea, or fever and abdominal pain.

Select patients will be tested for COVID-19 in certain situations where the result may alter their care. This includes some pre-surgical patients. Your child’s doctor will determine whether pre-surgery COVID-19 testing is needed, and a scheduler will reach out to confirm. Visit choa.org/surgery for more information.

Does Children’s offer drive-thru testing?

Children’s is offering an appointment-only mobile collection site for symptomatic and asymptomatic patients—up to age 21 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: fever, cough, sore throat, fever and nausea, fever and diarrhea, or fever and abdominal pain. Appointments will be confirmed only after an order number is provided by a community physician and a Children’s scheduler reaches out to a parent. This location is available now through September.

Because of the collection site's success, 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 by the end of summer 2020. 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.  

After collecting the specimen, the diagnostic testing will be conducted by commercial labs (Quest and LabCorp) and Children's will deliver results to the ordering provider and to the patient and family through MY chart. Contact your child’s pediatrician for more details.

What can parents expect at the appointment-only mobile collection (drive-thru) site?

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. Review the "what to expect" information for patient families before leaving for the appointment-only mobile collection site.

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 or she needs to remain at home and isolated until at least 10 days from the first date of the child’s symptoms and three days without fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines and 24 hours without 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 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.