We are thrilled that more students in our district are being given the opportunity to return to the classroom, but we also know that more families may have to undergo a COVID-19 evaluation to get back to the classroom after a minor illness. We have come a very long way since last March when turn around times were long and testing supplies were very limited. We can now offer COVID testing to any child that is sick because the symptoms can be mild and indistinguishable from other colds. The most important gold standard test is the PCR. I always tell my patients that is the one that goes far back in the nose, but it is quick and is the one they need to go back to school or work. Because it is the most uncomfortable and the one we really need, we get that one out of the way first. Then if they are still up for it, we have a free rapid test from the state that is just a swab in the front of nostrils only. These rapid tests help us to identify contacts faster if they are positive because a positive is very accurate in a sick child. However, we can’t trust a negative because they are not powerful enough to catch every infection. We call families after we finish our testing session outside within a few hours if the rapid test is positive, but otherwise we ask that patients continue to isolate at home while we wait for the PCR test to come back which is reliably less than 48 hours at this point. We have worked with our area schools on a return letter which we will fax once we have the test results back, but rely on families to update us if they have any new information about potential exposures that were unclear when we spoke initially.
There are times that children who have mild symptoms that would have never excited us before COVID-19 may be scheduled as a test only appointment after a discussion with the physician. However, most often we are doing a complete exam along with testing because we certainly don’t want to miss all of the non-COVID illnesses that are being considered as well. We are incredibly thankful that warmer weather is coming, but as these testing clinics are outside we ask that children be dressed with a thin t-shirt as an under-layer and use a blanket to stay warm on chillier days so that it is easier to evaluate them. Remember to use the bathroom before leaving your home and bring something to distract your child while you are waiting in your car as well as treat for after. After texting to check in, you will remain in your car until we come to get you. Because these clinics are scheduled in blocks, please arrive at the time given by the nurse or physician who schedules your appointment. Ignore any reminders that you may get by text or email that may be different from the time given verbally in order to keep these clinics running smoothly for our providers who are out in the elements and unable to accommodate late arrivals. As always we are here if you have concerns about your child while we are waiting for the test to come back!