“I’d like him to be tested for COVID-19,” are the words no mom wants to hear from her child’s pediatrician.
They’re normally followed with “just to rule it out,” and with instances of the virus still low in the Bay Area, the chances of an infant having contracted the disease are low. Still, when during a telemedicine consultation for an upset stomach, my 10-month-old’s doctor said he should get tested, I couldn’t help but feel anxious.
Tests are widely available across San Francisco but have varied wait times for results. We were given three options; go to a Dignity Health test center (I would need to research which of these centers test infants), a free walk-in test center in the City, or we could go to the emergency room. If we went with one of the first two options we could be waiting up to three days for the results. I also had concerns about taking an unmasked baby to somewhere where people with suspected coronavirus were heading en masse to be tested. If we went to the ER, we could expect results back within the hour. So off to the ER we went.
Only one parent is allowed into the emergency room with a child right now and it’s remarkably quiet in there. We went to CPMC on Van Ness (a hospital we know all too well after spending two months in their NICU) and followed protocol at check-in including us both having our temperatures checked.
My son didn’t have typical coronavirus symptoms. Although he’d run a temperature during the previous two weeks, I was almost certain that was down to teething. The reason we’d seen the doctor was because of some unexplained and intermittent vomiting which isn’t a typical COVID symptom, but does present in some cases. There are still so many unknowns with coronavirus, especially in children.
During his intake examination and initial consultation with the on-duty physician the hospital staff were in full PPE. The level of precaution taken made things a little scary for my 10-month-old, but reassuring for his anxious mama. The physician assured us that they had had very few positive test results back and that they would be surprised if he did have it.
The test itself is the same for infants as for adults. I’m sure most people have seen an illustration or video footage of this by now. It’s a fairly invasive swab. I couldn’t watch as they swabbed my baby, but held him tight as he squirmed in discomfort. It was over in seconds and the sample was sent away to the onsite lab.
While we awaited the test results he underwent some other tests including a stomach x-ray. From that, the team were able to identify some backed up poop obstructing his intestines, which would explain his symptoms. Before starting treatment for that, they decided to wait for the COVID-19 test results to come back.
By this point in the game, both mama and baby were feeling pretty stressed. It was past bedtime and we were both hungry. What really helped us was having a ‘Child Life Specialist’ who helped to distract the baby during all of the prodding and poking.
As expected, the test results came back negative. We stayed at the hospital a little while longer for some more tests and eventual treatment. A trip to the ER is never a good thing but on this occasion it felt like the best option for my baby.
Although we’re staying home as much as possible and maintaining social distancing, I do wonder if there will be more of these tests in the future for my family. Until there is a vaccination, I expect testing for even minor symptoms to become more commonplace. The good news is that the test is over in a second and despite being uncomfortable, it doesn’t actually hurt (so I’m told!).