Why kids and teens are not being tested for coronavirus as frequently as adults

HOUSTON – At most testing sites, if you want a test for a child, they want a pediatrician’s referral and pediatricians like Charisma Garcia, MD, with Texas Children’s Health Plan the Center for Children and Women, say unless the caregiver of a small child is elderly, diabetic or otherwise vulnerable, it’s not necessary.

“It’s not that we are not concerned about the child not being well but the people around them that have to have contact with that might be their caregiver,” Garcia explained. “In general, we are not recommending testing for all children because they don’t need to go to work. They can stay home. They can ride it out for two weeks.”

When talking about teenagers, Michael Chang, an infectious disease pediatrician with UT Physicians and UTHealth, agrees.

“Trying to test everybody before you return to school or trying to implement some sort of regular testing regiment is probably not going to be very effective,” Chang said. “You are just capturing snapshots in time and you are not going to be able to find that moment when somebody becomes infected. It probably won’t help you prevent that many infections.”

Since kids and teens seem to do well with the virus, they say they'd rather preserve the tests for people who really need them.

They advise parents to be on the lookout for symptoms to know when to keep kids and teens home and remember symptoms might be more subtle among them. The biggest difference is a kid might be sick with a cold, runny nose or vomiting briefly and then be fine. Pediatricians say the symptoms don’t last as long as they do in adults.

Plus, growing evidence shows the younger they are, the less likely they are to transmit the virus to others. Garcia said of the cases at Texas Children’s only a couple had pneumonia.

“In general, they are largely well. Which kind of leads to the scary idea that they are more likely to spread it because they may not actually know they are ill because they are fighting it off so well,” she said.