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Some questioning the accuracy of COVID-19 tests with kids

Virus Outbreak Washington
Posted at 2:14 PM, Dec 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 16:03:59-05

Doctors and researchers have noticed that the coronavirus affects children differently. Now, there are questions about how accurate COVID-19 tests are in kids.

One recent study done by several laboratories and hospitals in Massachusetts looked at the BinaxNOW rapid test.

The test had a high accuracy rate in adults, but when it came to symptomatic patients 18 and under, the accuracy rate was just under 78%. The rate decreased in asymptomatic children.

Another paper, published in Clinical Microbiology and Infection, found the Panbio rapid test had a lower accuracy rate in children. It was only able to identify 62% of COVID-19 cases in patients under 16 years old.

Doctors have differing opinions on why accuracy rates may be different in children.

One doctor tells Yahoo News that children's immune systems are just better at zeroing in on diseases and making them harder to detect.

A pediatric doctor we spoke with says she hasn't seen a difference in accuracy rates. If anything, symptoms may be different.

“Sometimes the way that the disease processes or goes about in these children can change. It can change with obesity rates and things like that, but we have had it be successful with infants age as well as on up,” said Laura-Anne Cleveland with the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

There may also be some variation in the way the test is performed. The cotton swab is the same size for both adults and children, which means it could be more uncomfortable for kids.

“Kids move around. If you have a little kid that you're trying to hold down, they're going to move around, and sometimes, we don't want to cause pain or cause tears, but you do have to get in that nose, do a couple turns, and be able to get a good sample,” said Cleveland.

When children are tested, doctors say it may actually be a bad sign if they are comfortable during the test, because it may not produce an accurate result.

If you notice your kid is comfortable while being tested of if the swab barely went into their nose, it's advised that you ask for the test to be redone.

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