Is It Just a Cold… or Is It COVID-19?

Navigating COVID-19 testing in the midst of cold season.

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To Test or Not to Test?

According to our provincial COVID-19 assessment guidelines, a runny nose alone isn’t enough to trigger testing or stay home from school.

The Waiting Game

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Photo by Ocean Ng on Unsplash

The Emotional Story

Throughout the day, my mind was all over the place. The emotional part of me couldn’t help playing out the worst-case scenario: one or more positive COVID-19 tests. Could my kids be one of the rare unlucky ones that has severe symptoms? Might there be long term effects? Could we have spread it to other people, including my mom who visits often? How would we cope with weeks of quarantine?

The Rational Story

The rational part of my brain was telling a different story. How likely is it that it’s COVID-19? What data can I use to wrap my head around this? Here’s a glimpse of the mental gymnastics I went through:

Guess the Test Results

As we got ready for bed, my husband and I played “guess the test results”. We are both scientists, having met in graduate school where we pursued our PhDs (mine in genetics, his in molecular evolution). I put the COVID-19 odds at about 2% and my husband put them at about 20%. As we discussed our divergent perspectives, I shared the insights I had gleaned from my machinations that day. He revised his guess downwards by a lot but still felt that 2% was a bit low. I felt that 2% might even be a bit high.

Drumroll Please…

We got our results by text message, almost exactly 24 hours after the tests were complete. They were negative and I walked the kids to school for recess with a bounce in my step, feeling grateful for our health, and our remarkable testing resources.

Closing Thoughts

One of the hardest things about pandemic life is the constant uncertainty. I hope that this glimpse into my family’s journey through COVID-19 testing helps you feel less alone, and perhaps a bit less stressed as you await your test results.


To learn more about COVID-19, check out your local public health websites. The British Columbia CDC has a great one, as does Health Canada.

COVID-19 symptom frequency:


“Reports have found fever (children 56% vs. adults 71%), cough (children 46% vs. adults 80%), and shortness of breath (children 13% vs. adults 43%) at a lower frequency in children. Gastrointestinal symptoms are often predominant in clinical presentation, including abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting”. Source: Health Canada, Sept 39, 2020


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Frequency of different COVID-19 symptoms in adults. (Health Canada, Sept 29, 2020)

About Me

I’m a scientist and mother of three children. My son is beginning grade four, and my twin girls are starting kindergarten.

Written by

Scientist (PhD Genetics @Stanford) * Mother * Passionate about science-based healthy choices * Lifelong learner * Founder: Fueled by Science

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