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Oregon Family Magazine

Clearing Up COVID Confusion

10/30/2021 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
It’s normal for parents to have questions about COVID-19 because it can be challenging to keep up with the latest recommendations about testing, isolation and quarantine.

When Should Someone Be Tested?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that any person with symptoms of COVID-19 get tested, regardless of vaccination status or prior infection.

You should also be tested if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive. A close contact is anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.

Which Test is Best?

There are two categories of tests:

  • Molecular test (RNA or PCR test): Testing is done through saliva collection or by using a nasopharyngeal swab that goes deep into the nose. Test results are highly accurate and are typically available within one to seven days.
  • Antigen test (rapid test): The sensitivity of this test can vary depending on when the test is taken, relative to the course of the illness. The turnaround time with this test is much quicker, with results typically available within a day and as soon as 15 minutes.

Symptoms of COVID-19

How COVID-19 manifests in children and adults can vary significantly, with symptoms ranging from fever or chills, coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, a loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, diarrhea and nausea.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. Kids showing symptoms should stay home and stay isolated.

Quarantine vs. Isolation

Another point of confusion can be when to quarantine and when to isolate.

  • Quarantine = Stay home: If you have not been vaccinated but were in close contact with someone with COVID-19, you should stay home and away from others for 14 days. If you’ve been vaccinated, you don’t need to quarantine, but wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days or until your test result is negative.
  • Isolation = Stay away from other people: If you test positive for COVID-19, you must stay away from other people, including people you live with, for up to 10 days.

Since some children and even adults with COVID may be asymptomatic, it’s important to continue taking steps to reduce the potential spread of the virus, including getting vaccinated when eligible, wearing face masks in public spaces, practicing social distancing and regular handwashing.