Bethesda Pediatrics has several options available for those interested in Covid-19 testing.
One test we use regularly in our office to diagnose an active Covid-19 infection is the rapid antigen screen. This test screens for a protein component on the surface of the virus via a nasal swab sample, which is similar to the rapid Strep and Flu tests many people are familiar with. The test is run on site at the time of your office visit and results are available within about 20 minutes. Positive tests are considered highly accurate. Negative test results in a symptomatic person may warrant additional or confirmatory testing via PCR. The rapid antigen is not a reliable test to use in screening asymptomatic people based on exposure.
We also routinely collect samples for Covid PCR testing that are then shipped to and run at an out of state lab. This test is considered the most accurate as it checks for the genetic material of the virus (RNA). It is run on a nasopharyngeal sample, which is deeper than a nasal swab. Results are generally available within 36 hours, especially when collected Monday through Thursday. Tests collected and sent out on Fridays or Saturdays are often not run until the following Monday and therefore have a longer time before results are reported.
All testing done at our office is in the afternoon by appointment with a physician only. We continue to see only healthy patients for check-ups and follow up visits throughout the morning for infection control and social distancing purposes. We are currently able to offer testing to all of our patients at any time without restriction. Due to limited availability of testing supplies and PPE (personal protective equipment) for our staff, we had previously only provided testing for patients who were symptomatic or had known exposure to Covid-19. However, we are now able to also provide this service to those who request testing for school clearance, travel or visiting with family. We are currently also able to offer Covid-19 PCR testing for asymptomatic PARENTS (read more here).
Antibody (or serology) tests are blood tests to see if you have any evidence of immunity against coronavirus. We can provide an order for a patient to have blood drawn at an outside lab if requested, but this type of test does not diagnose an active infection and has very limited usefulness in pediatric patients. There is no data currently that shows that antibodies will protect a person from reinfection or from being able to carry and transmit the virus to others.
There continue to be many options for testing outside of our office throughout Montgomery County. Your best resource is to check on the Maryland Department of Health website for locations (https://coronavirus.maryland.gov/pages/symptoms-testing). Written orders or prescriptions for tests run at county-based centers are generally not required. Types of tests available and wait time for results can vary greatly. Tests run at private institutions (such as Medstar, PM Pediatrics, Righttime Care and other retail-based clinics) generally require an evaluation first, and we cannot directly order testing at those sites. Their fees may vary so please check their websites.