My Daughter Just Started In-Person School ... And Now She Has A Sore Throat

by Jodi Kalson
A mother in a sweatshirt talking on her smartphone while holding her hand on a girl's forehead who h...
Scary Mommy and Dean Mitchell/Getty

And then it happened…my daughter said those dreaded words I hadn’t heard in over 6 months: “I don’t feel good.” I asked what was wrong and she said a sore throat. I felt her head and it was cool. It was late at night so I told her to go to bed and hoped she would feel better in the morning.

At 5 a.m., I woke up and realized my throat hurt too. Now back when the world was normal I probably would have just gone back to sleep. But in today’s world, I woke up freaking out a little bit.

What do I do? Who do I tell? What do I say? Where do I go? Was I supposed to go to a doctor’s office? It was Saturday. The doctor’s office wasn’t open. Should I take my daughter to get a COVID test? It was only one symptom, and that symptom just started. What was with the timeframe people were always talking about? Would the test even be accurate? Rapid results versus tests sent to a lab? Where were tests even being offered? I’ve heard of places with no wait and ones that take hours. Some places are free or take insurance. Others cost between $100-$150 per test. Should we start quarantining now? What happens with school on Monday (which my kids started at in person just two weeks ago)?

By 5:20 am, I was already downstairs checking the flow chart my daughter’s school provided. After a thorough review, I realized that she would be unable to attend until she was symptom free for three days or had a doctor’s note stating the symptoms were not COVID. Thankfully, there was a virtual option she could begin right away.

But what about my other daughter’s preschool? She felt fine. Could she go? Probably not. That didn’t seem socially responsible. I then set a calendar reminder to email the schools once it was an acceptable hour to contact people to see what the policy was.

By 6 am, I was googling COVID testing. After finding nowhere with availability, I texted my mom friends. Thankfully they are way more prepared than I am for these types of situations. By 7:20 am, I had about 7 recommendations for places to go. Two of those recommendations were for the same place so I found the winner. By 7:30, appointments were set for my daughter and me for 9 am.

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We arrived for testing at 8:50 and by 9:00 we were done (and that included the 3 minutes my daughter was freaking out not allowing the doctor to put the swab up her nose). They told us test results would be back in 2-3 business days. So then we began to wait.

My kids were supposed to see their grandmother on my driveway over the weekend. That didn’t happen. I had an appointment scheduled for during the week when my kids would be in school. I canceled. I had to tell my boss my kids would be homeschooling since my work could no longer take priority. I am fortunate that I work part-time and my job affords me flexibility.

On Monday, I took my daughter to the pediatrician. After telling him that her only symptom was a sore throat, he questioned why we had gotten a COVID test. I told him I just thought we should. Also, according to the school chart, it seemed appropriate. However, based on our conversation, it didn’t seem like I needed to have her tested at all, especially considering she ended up having a sinus infection.

But technically, couldn’t she have a sinus infection and COVID? Was getting tested the right thing to do or was I overreacting? Would another parent in my position have their kid tested or would they just send them to school? Will the take away here be don’t get your kid tested? I surely don’t want that.

But here’s the thing, maybe I shouldn’t have gotten her tested. By Tuesday, both of us were feeling better, she had started her prescription for the sinus infection and we still didn’t have our COVID test results. My 4-year-old felt fine the whole time. Neither her nor her sister could go back to school until the COVID test results came back…test results from a test we didn’t really need in the first place according to the pediatrician.

So what is the right answer? To test or not to test?

Once someone gets tested, the schools need to wait on the results before allowing a student or sibling back. I understand this policy, but next time, should we just not get tested? What specific symptoms should we wait for before getting tested? If we had not gotten tested, I likely would have been able to send them Tuesday and Wednesday, the day I finally ended up getting the negative test results.

I know I made the right decision by getting us tested, but this whole thing has been a huge inconvenience. I feel bad for parents who do not have the option to send their kids to school in person this year and those who work full-time. When the kids are home, it is extremely difficult to get anything done.

If people could easily get rapid tests, with reliable results, without the delayed turnaround time, that might solve the problem. But until that happens, parents are stuck between a rock and a hard place: test and then wait, or don’t test and be able to send your kid to school (without really knowing if your kid has COVID and can spread it).

Back when a sore throat was just a sore throat, the world was so much easier.