Walgreens is Now Offering Free COVID-19 Tests For Kids 3 and Older
Here's why COVID-19 testing for young children is important, when kids should get tested, and where else tests are available across the country.
With fears growing that coronavirus cases will continue to rise in the approaching colder months, Walgreens announced an expansion of its COVID-19 testing to include kids age 3 and older. Before, the company was only offering testing to those 18 and over.
This is a big deal since many testing sites across the country do not test kids or have age minimums that leave younger children out. That can be a cause for concern for parents as many kids have returned to in-person learning.
“As more health departments and school administrators continue efforts to bring students back to classrooms in a safe and thoughtful manner, and to help parents and guardians seeking access to testing when warranted for their children, we’re proud to be a community testing resource for individuals and families—including those age 3 and over,” Rick Gates, senior vice president of pharmacy at Walgreens, said in a statement.
All caregivers need to do to get their child tested is head to the Walgreen COVID-19 testing website, complete a quick screening, and schedule an appointment for the no-cost, contactless test. Caregivers must also be present with their minor at the testing site—Walgreens operates more than 600 sites across the country, as well as ones in Puerto Rico, and 80 more opening in October 2020. The website can help you locate a site in your area.
What to expect at the Walgreens testing site? The pharmacy team will instruct parents on how to administer the COVID-19 nasal swab test to their kids, while adolescents can opt to self-administer it. Results should be available within 24 to 72 hours.
Walgreens’ extended testing comes as coronavirus rates continue to rise in 39 states, especially in several Midwestern states. There have been more than 8 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S. to date and more than 225,000 deaths, according to analysis from Johns Hopkins University. Data shows more than 741,000 kids have tested positive in the country. While this is fewer cases than adults and children tend to suffer less severe illness from COVID-19, they can contribute to the spread that's why it might be necessary for your kid to get tested.
When Should Your Kid Get Tested?
Although research shows up to 45 percent of kids may be asymptomatic, you may want to get your child tested if they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19—fever higher than 100.4 degrees, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing, headaches, body aches, abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. But this doesn't necessarily mean your child has coronavirus. "These same symptoms are also present with other wintertime illnesses like strep throat, the flu, common cold, or even with seasonal allergies," says Rashmi Jain, M.D., a pediatrician and founder of BabiesMD.com, a virtual Pediatric Urgent Care.
It’s imperative to get your child tested if they have been within six feet of distance for more than 15 minutes with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. “This doesn’t have to be 15 consecutive minutes,” says Dr. Jain. “It could also be a few minutes at a time that total 15 or more minutes.” This is especially true for kids who have health conditions like asthma, an autoimmune disease, or weakened immune systems.
It’s also a good idea to get your kid tested if they live in or have traveled to an area with a high infection rate, especially if they live in the same house with grandparents or parents who have health conditions, including underlying heart issues or diabetes.
As parents wait for results, especially in cases where there is a belief that it likely is a COVID-19 infection, kids (whether symptomatic or asymptomatic) should avoid contact with others as much as possible and stay home from school until they get a negative result. "It is also recommended that other children in the household stay home until the sibling’s test comes back negative,” says Dr. Jain. The other kids in the house don't need to get tested in asymptomatic cases, adds Dr. Jain, unless their sibling's test comes back positive.
Where Else Can Kids Get a COVID-19 Test?
There are some other options for kids to get tested, too. "The best places to get a nasal swab PCR test to know if your child has a COVID-19 infection right now are going to be your pediatrician's office, a pediatric urgent care, and possibly emergency room if your child is sick enough to go to the emergency room," says Dr. Jain. (Websites like Solv and PM Pediatrics can help you find your closest pediatric urgent care.)
Why do you need a nasal swab? "Tests that require a blood draw do not test if there is an infection right now. They are testing for antibodies to see if one has had a COVID-19 infection previously," says Dr. Jain. And as for those rapid tests that show results in 15 minutes: "They may miss some positive cases compared to the tests that are sent to the lab and take 2-3 days for results," adds Dr. Jain.
Keep in mind, it’s normal for kids—and even parents—to be nervous about getting tested. Here’s what experts recommend to help make the nasal swab experience easier for your entire family.