Cough or sneeze, elbow please? Symptoms associated with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test in children

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Payne, MD, London Health Sciences Centre

An observational study was conducted in Alberta, Canada from April to September 2020, using a public health database to determine the most common symptoms associated with a positive SARS-CoV-2 test for children in the community. By analyzing 1987 positive and 476 negative results, the symptoms most strongly associated with a positive test were: altered smell or taste, nausea/vomiting, headache and fever. Asymptomatic infections were present in 35.9% of children. Cough, sore throat and rhinorrhea were commonly reported symptoms in both positive and negative children, but not predictive of a positive SARS-CoV-2 test. This study can inform screening questionnaire design for clinics, schools and daycares. 


James A. King, Tara A. Whitten, Jeffrey A. Bakal and Finlay A. McAlister. Symptoms associated with a positive result for a swab for SARS-CoV-2 infection among children in Alberta. CMAJ. 193 (1) E1-E9; DOI:

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