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14:45 PM

COVID-19 Testing: When Can Children Return to School?

If your child has been exposed to COVID-19, you may be wondering what happens next. 

All patients with exposure to COVID-19, regardless of symptoms, will need to quarantine for 14 days. This is required, regardless of test results, because COVID-19 can develop between two and 14 days after an exposure.

At Cook Children’s Urgent Care, a patient may be required to have two negative COVID-19 tests before their doctor or nurse practitioner will sign a form allowing the child to return to school. This will likely be the case if the child's symptoms are high risk for the virus. 

If a child tests positive for COVID-19, they will need to stay home for 10 days after the onset of their own symptoms. This could mean a quarantine longer than 14 days. 

Cook Children's Health Care System follows guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

We also follow the Infectious Disease Society of America which has issued the following COVID-19 guidelines: 

  • Intermediate to high clinical suspicion of COVID-19: A COVID-19 test should be repeated in 24 to 48 hours (different samples if indicated)
  • Low clinical suspicion: No re-testing

All patients with high-risk symptoms should be tested for COVID-19 before returning to school based on physician or nurse practitioner discretion.

These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Body aches
  • Loss of taste/smell
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Sustained vomiting or diarrhea (and usually a combination of the these symptoms)

“Our goal is to make sure we limit the spread of COVID-19 as much as we possibly can to keep everyone healthy,” said Suzanne Whitworth, M.D., medical director of Infectious Diseases at Cook Children’s. “If the first test gives a false negative result, we could potentially be sending a contagious child back into the classroom. That is why a second test is needed in cases of high suspicion.” 

All patients with low-risk symptoms and NO known exposure to COVID-19 can be tested before returning to school based on physician discretion. Low-risk symptoms include congestion or runny nose, rash or a single episodes of vomiting or diarrhea.

Click here to read more about COVID-19 testing.