The realities of COVID swabbing your own child...

I wrote a few weeks ago about how to do a COVID swab on your own child – techniques for holding them still, tips on how to get right to the back of the throat… Little did I know that only a few days later, my own 14 month old would spike a fever. I was due to be at work so knew I had to swab him and get the result as soon as possible, so I duly tried to follow my own advice. The reality, it turns out, is somewhat different!

I booked a slot via the gov.uk website at a local testing centre based in a car park near my workplace. They advise that you take two adults to swab a child which is very sensible, but really impractical if, like me, you have four children. This was no one’s idea of a fun day out. They won’t let you get out of your car, so you have to climb from the front seat, into the back of the car… which is frankly tricky if you have as many car seats as we have. So, I went alone with my youngest.

After driving around the town’s one-way system a few times, I located the car park and was greeted by some young army lads, bravely standing in the pouring rain, manning the testing station. There was only one other car there. As they handed me the swab kit through my open window, I almost told them to keep the instructions… after all, this was going to be easy! The first error I made was on clambering into the backseat – as I traversed the handbrake, I accidentally stood on a discarded toy, sending me falling backwards onto the car horn. The army lads raised an eyebrow at the car and carried on, although I am sure I saw them smirking.

The next challenge is to hold your small octopus still enough to swab their tonsils for ten whole seconds, which seems to go on forever when they are biting down on the small plastic swab you are trying desperately to cling onto! Once they are thoroughly upset by the experience, you then put the same swab up their nose for another ten seconds whilst the octopus screams and shakes his head. It is then important, whilst balanced in an adjacent child’s car seat, to keep the bottle of culture fluid upright whilst putting the swab in, snapping off half the stick and carefully screwing on the lid, all while trying to keep away from flailing arms.

After the swab was packaged carefully according to the very specific instructions, I tried to daintily climb back into the driver’s seat, took a few deep breaths, drove to the exit and deposited my sample in the collection bin on my way out.

My 14 month old obviously recovered pretty quickly, and actually swab results were back in 24 hours and were fortunately negative, meaning I could get back to work. It is recognised that young children are especially difficult to get accurate swabs from so, if you need to swab your own child, do take someone with you, if at all possible. It would definitely have made my experience easier!

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