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Rapid Influenza Diagnostic Test

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KEY POINTS

  • A rapid influenza diagnostic test looks for infection caused by the flu virus.
  • Usually, a positive flu test result means that your child has the flu. A negative (normal) result may mean that your child does not have the flu. But even if the test is negative, if your child has flu symptoms and you live in an area where many people have the flu, your child’s healthcare provider may still treat your child for flu.
  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions about the test or the results.

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What is a rapid influenza test?

A rapid influenza diagnostic test (RIDT) looks for infection caused by an influenza (flu) virus, subtypes A and B. There are different brands of the test that may show different kinds of results.

Why is it done?

Your healthcare provider may use an RIDT to find out if a flu virus is causing your child’s symptoms. Symptoms of the flu may include chills, sweating, fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, or tiredness. Flu symptoms usually start quickly and can last 3 to 14 days. Your child may start feeling better after the first 2 days or so. Having these symptoms does not always mean that your child has the flu.

RIDTs are most accurate when your child gets the test in the first day or 2 after symptoms start. If your child’s symptoms suggest that he or she might have the flu and the test is positive, your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe antiviral medicine. This medicine may help your child feel better sooner than if he or she does not have treatment.

Your child’s healthcare provider can diagnose flu, during flu season, without giving your child a RIDT or without seeing a positive test result.

How do I prepare my child for this test?

Usually your child does not need to do anything special before this test.

Talk to your child’s healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Your child’s healthcare provider will rub a cotton swab against the back of your child’s throat or in your child’s nose. Your child’s healthcare provider may be able to do this test in his or her office, or the test will be sent to a lab. The provider’s office will have the result in about 15 minutes. It may take longer to get results back from the lab.

What does the test result mean?

Usually, a positive flu test result means that your child has the flu. A negative (normal) result may mean that your child does not have the flu. But even if the test is negative, if your child has flu symptoms and you live in an area where many people have the flu, your child’s healthcare provider may still treat your child for flu. Your child’s healthcare provider can explain what the test results mean with your child’s symptoms.

What if my child’s test result is not normal?

Test results are only one part of a larger picture that takes into account your child’s medical history, physical exam, and current health. Sometimes a test needs to be repeated to check the first result. Talk to your healthcare provider about your child’s result and ask questions such as:

  • If your child needs more tests
  • What kind of treatment your child might need
  • What other changes you might need to make
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2017-09-01
Last reviewed: 2019-06-27
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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