American Academy of Pediatrics – Section on Emergency Medicine and the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians

View all recommendations from this society

December 2, 2022

Do not obtain comprehensive viral panel testing for patients who have suspected respiratory viral illnesses.

Viral infections occur frequently in children and are a common reason to seek medical care. The diagnosis of a viral illness is made clinically and usually does not require confirmatory testing. Additionally, there is a lack of consistent evidence to demonstrate the impact of comprehensive viral panel (i.e., panels simultaneously testing for 8–20+ viruses) results on clinical outcomes or management, especially in emergency department settings. Hence, most national and international clinical practice guidelines do not recommend their routine use. Additionally, some viral tests are quite expensive, and obtaining nasopharyngeal swab specimens can be uncomfortable for children. Comprehensive viral panel testing can be considered in high-risk patients (eg, immunocompromised) or in situations in which the results will directly influence treatment decisions such as the need for antibiotics, performance of additional tests, or hospitalization. Testing for specific viruses might be indicated if the results of the testing may alter treatment plans (e.g., antivirals for influenza) or public health recommendations (e.g., isolation for SARS-CoV-2). For more specific recommendations related to diagnosis and management of SARS-CoV-2, please see

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items
on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

The American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Emergency Medicine (AAP SOEM) Committee on Quality Transformation (COQT) assembled a task force to oversee the creation of a Pediatric Emergency Medicine Choosing Wisely list. The task force first collected suggested recommendations from a diverse group of ED providers (physicians, nurses, and advanced practice providers) from six academic pediatric EDs to gather an initial list of frequently overused and/or avoidable tests and interventions. Task force members independently scored these items on an anchored rating scale based on each item’s frequency of overuse in a typical ED shift, the evidence for lack of efficacy, and the potential harm associated with overuse. The scores were discussed, and consensus was reached for the top 25 ranked items. Next, this list of 25 proposed items was sent to all COQT members in a survey format. The COQT member survey respondents selected which 10 items they believed should be included in the Choosing Wisely list. The task force then ranked the selected items based on the frequency of selection by COQT members. The five top-ranked items that were not duplicative of items on other subspecialty Choosing Wisely lists were submitted and approved by AAP SOEM leadership. The list of five final items with summary evidence was subsequently forwarded for peer review to relevant expert AAP Committee, Council, and Section leadership. The AAP Board of Directors and Executive Committee granted final approval of this list.


Gill, PJ, Richardson, SE, Ostrow O. Testing for respiratory viruses in children: to swab or not to swab. JAMA Pediatr. 2017;171(8):798-804

Noël KC, Fontela PS, Winters N, et al. The clinical utility of respiratory viral testing in hospitalized children: a meta-analysis. Hosp Pediatr. 2019;9(7):483-494

Parikh K, Hall M, Mittal V, et al. Establishing benchmarks for the hospitalized care of children with asthma, bronchiolitis, and pneumonia. Pediatrics. 2014;134(3):555-562

Innis K, Hasson D, Bodilly L, et al. Do I need proof of the culprit? Decreasing respiratory viral testing in critically ill patients. Hosp Pediatr. 2021;11(1):e1-e5