COVID-19 Exposure and Testing
- What is considered a COVID-19 Exposure?
The CDC considers a COVID-19 exposure as someone who has been within 6 feet of a COVID-19 positive patients for at least 15 minutes while they have symptoms, or 2 days prior to them having symptoms. This can include a family member or someone in the community (school or elsewhere).
- When should my child be kept in home isolation?
There are four reasons to keep a child in home isolation.
- If they have COVID-19 symptoms and are awaiting testing results.
- They have COVID-19 symptoms and are not going to be tested.
- They are considered a COVID-19 exposure (see the question above).
- The local or state public health department asks them to be kept in home isolation.
- One of my children tested positive for COVID-19. Should my other children be tested? Can they go to school?
If one of your children has tested positive for COVID-19, your other children should be tested regardless of their vaccination status and regardless of if they have symptoms or not.
If your other children are not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, they should quarantine at home for at least 5 full days.
Your other children may go to school if:
- They are up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations and do not have symptoms.
- They were exposed to COVID-19 and had confirmed COVID-19 within the past 90 days and currently do not have symptoms.
- My child has been exposed to another student with COVID-19. Do I need to keep my child home from school?
The local health department or your school will provide you with specific guidance for your child. Generally speaking, the CDC recommends that children who have a direct exposure to COVID-19 (defined as being within six feet of a student with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period) should be kept in home isolation for 5 days. Watch for the development of symptoms in your child for 10 days after the close contact occurs and have them wear a well-fitting mask for 10 days any time they are around others in your home or in public.
- If my child is asked to isolate at home, should I have my child tested for COVID-19?
You should get your child tested for COVID-19 if:
- He or she has symptoms of COVID-19
- He or she has been in close contact with someone with COVID-19 within the last 5 days, even if your child doesn’t develop symptoms (you do not have to get them tested if they have already tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days.)
- Your child will be attending an indoor event or gathering
- Before and after travel
- For COVID-19 screening done for schools, workplaces, congregate settings, etc.
- If my child is asked to isolate at home, how long do they have to stay out of school?
If your child has been asked to isolate at home but has not developed any symptoms, the CDC recommends home isolation for 5 days. If your child does develop symptoms, contact your health care provider for information on testing. If you or anyone in your household tests positive, your child may be considered a close contact and should follow public health recommendations for follow-up based on their vaccination status or history of prior infection. If your child needs to quarantine, ask your child’s school about virtual learning options during this time and for instructions on when your child can return to school.
- What steps should I take to isolate my child (particularly if there is an at risk person living in the home)?
As much as possible, your child should stay in a specific room and away from other people in your home. Also, your child should use a separate bathroom if possible. People who do not have a need to be in your home should not visit.
Try to let your child stay in places in the home that have good airflow. Allow getting fresh air when possible.
Remind your child that it is very important to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.
Avoid the child sharing personal household items such as dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After your child uses these items, they should be washed with soap and water.
If they are old enough (over 2 years old) have them wear a mask whenever they leave their room.
- If one of my children is asked to isolate at home, should other children and household members isolate at home as well?
No. At home, anyone sick or infected should separate from others for 5 days and wear a well-fitting mask at times when they need to be around someone else. Children and adults in isolation should stay in a designated “sick room” or area and use a separate bathroom if possible. Other family members do not have to isolate themselves unless they begin to show symptoms.
If a new family member gets sick with COVID-19, other symptom-free members of the household do not need to quarantine if they are up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations or if they were exposed to COVID-19 and had confirmed COVID-19 within the past 90 days. Household members that do not meet those criteria should quarantine for 5 days even but only if they do not have symptoms. See the CDC’s guidance for additional information on when to start and end home isolation: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html#iso
- My child was exposed to COVID-19 and my job wants my child(ren) and me tested before I come back to work. How do I get testing?
Where to get tests:
- Order free at-home self-tests at COVID.gov. Free tests are also available through local health departments.
- Buy self-tests on-line or in pharmacies and retail stores. Private health insurance may reimburse the cost of purchasing self-tests. You can visit the FDA’s At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests page for a list of authorized tests.
- If you’re unable to obtain a self-test when you need it, you can visit a community testing site or call your local health department.
- Tests are also available at:
- My child was around someone who is a close contact to a COVID-19 positive person. Does my child need to be tested or kept in home isolation?
Contact with an exposed individual is considered an exposure itself if it occurred within six feet of a person with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more. The CDC does not consider contact for less time to be an exposure, even though it may still have some risk of transmission. Also remember, a COVID-19 positive patient is recommended to home isolate by the CDC for 2 days prior to symptoms begin, and then for 5 days after developing symptoms AND when fever is gone for at least 24 hours without fever reducing medications. After the 5-day isolation is over, the patient should wear a mask while near other people at home and in public for an additional 5 days.
- What symptoms of COVID-19 should we look for?
Consistent with current CDC guidelines, if your child develops any of these symptoms you should call their health care provider:
- Fever of at least 100 degrees F
- New onset or worsening congestion or runny nose not associated with allergy symptoms
- New onset Cough
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sore throat
- My child has no symptoms — can they still get a COVID-19 test?
Please visit our COVID-19 Testing at UH page for further information.
- When should I have my child tested for COVID-19?
You should contact your child’s health care provider and discuss the need for COVID-19 testing if your child has any of the symptoms of COVID-19 (see above).
- I am waiting for my child’s COVID-19 test results. Can my other children go to school now?
If your other children do not have symptoms, they can go to school. If the first child’s test results come back positive, your other children should quarantine at home for at least 5 days if they are not up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations. If they are up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations, your other children do not have to stay home unless they develop symptoms. See the CDC’s guidance on when to start and end home isolation for additional information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/quarantine-isolation.html#iso
- How do I arrange to have my child tested for COVID-19?
- You can order free at-home self-tests at COVID.gov. Free tests are also available through local health departments.
- You can buy self-tests on-line or in pharmacies and retail stores. Private health insurance may reimburse the cost of purchasing self-tests. You can visit the FDA’s At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests page for a list of authorized tests.
- If you’re unable to obtain a self-test when you need it, you can get your child tested at a community testing center, pharmacy or doctor’s office. After your child’s specimen (either a nasal swab or saliva sample) is sent to a lab for processing, results typically take at least 24 hours.
- COVID-19 testing is also available at:
- What happens during a COVID-19 test?
To determine the presence of the COVID-19 virus a swab (stick with a collection material on the tip, like a long Q-tip) is placed in the patient’s nose just inside the nostril. The specimen is obtained very quickly by rubbing for 10 seconds in the first nostril, then using the same swab in the second nostril.
- How long does it take to get COVID-19 test results?
The timing of test results varies based on when and where the test is obtained and how many other specimens are being processed at that time. Test results are usually available within 24 to 48 hours.
- How reliable is a COVID-19 test in children?
The COVID-19 PCR test (the most common but not the only type of COVID-19 test used) is very reliable if the result is positive. If the result is negative, it is usually reliable but the ordering health care provider might still believe the child has COVID-19 based on the symptoms and level of exposure. The child still may be asked to isolate at home even with a negative test.
- Can my child have COVID-19 antibody testing?
At this time doctors are still studying the use and reliability of COVID-19 antibody testing to demonstrate previous COVID-19 infection that has resolved. Currently, antibody testing is available at University Hospitals under the direction of an Infectious Disease specialist.