Little kids get sick with maddening frequency. It is not unusual to suffer through multiple rounds of strep throat, two strains of flu, the Coxsackie virus and assorted ear and eye infections, all in one elementary school year. Enter the novel coronavirus, and symptoms that would typically make parents groan, ‘Ugh, not again’ instead inspire insomnia. That’s because the indicators of Covid-19 are wide-ranging and overlap with those of many common childhood illnesses. (Sore throat? Low grade fever? Upset stomach? Headache? Fatigue? Show us a kid who doesn’t experience some of the above on a semi-regular basis.) So how do you know when you should watch your kid and wait, quarantining all the while, and when you should have them tested for Covid-19?
Complicating matters is the fact that tests may be hard to come by in certain areas, if they’re even offered to small children at all. There’s also no question that nasopharyngeal swabs are uncomfortable for kids. But none of this should stop you from pursuing a test for your child if you have reason to believe she or he may have the Coronavirus—especially if cases are prevalent in your area. We spoke with Emily Miller, M.D., an Internal Medicine doctor and Infectious Disease Fellow at Columbia University Medical Center for clear advice in confusing times.