Gearing up for the third Covid-19 wave, all states are pulling up their socks to protect children. As the virus continues to evolve, pediatricians are getting cases of children with symptoms like cough, fever or chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body ache, sore throat. However, testing in children is definitely a tricky task as they are often uncomfortable with the procedures.
Dr Shashibhushan, Neonatologist, and pediatrician at Cloudnine Hospitals Malleswaram, Bengaluru who is also a part of the High-Level Expert Committee for Prevention and Management of Covid wave- 3 by the government of Karnataka has explained alternate methods of testing which are designed for kids.
Why should there be a different method of testing for kids?
Children in general fear doctors and hospitals. Hence, they may not be as supportive to let the health staff collect samples by dipping a thin stick into the throat or deep inside the nose. So, a very different approach is very necessary for kids.
What are the covid testing methods for kids?
Oral RT-PCR or Salivary RT-PCR and Gargle RT-PCR are the most effective methods to collect samples from children. Nasal swab collection and Rapid Antigen Test are other forms which can also be used.
What is the difference between a nasal swab and a nasopharyngeal swab? Why is the former suggested for children specifically?
The nasopharyngeal swab is the one that is collected from adults. Long and thin material is inserted deep into the nose through the nostril and pulled out. Though all this happens in less than a second, a slight discomfort is experienced by people who go through it. Children may not allow this test as they don’t understand the whole process. Hence, the sample collecting material is just wiped in the beginning of the nostril, not going deep inside and the sample collected is called a nasal swab.
What is Gargle RT-PCR?
It is a method wherein a specific fluid (known as gargling solution) is given and the child is asked to gargle and spit it out. It can be used on kids above 7 years of age.
Are these new methods efficient? How good are they with accuracy?
All these methods are told to be as effective as the conventional methods. ICMR has approved gargle RT-PCR. The results from these tests are said to be as good as the others.
Are these methods used anywhere else?
Salivary RT-PCR is used in the US and France. Gargle RT-PCR is recently used in Pune and proven beneficial.
Do the medical staff need special training to do these tests?
It is always advised that testing on children is done by pediatric staff. However, when there is shortage of skilled staff, it is advised that available staff is trained to collect samples from children.