COVID swabs in children

There has been much excitement in my household this last week as my Year 1 child has been back in school with half her class, seeing old friends, enjoying being back in the classroom and adjusting to new routines. As our children trickle back to school and nursery in the coming weeks, there will no doubt be some challenges as well. Inevitably, as children start mixing again, some will develop fevers – this is more likely to be due to bugs other than COVID-19 but guidelines will still need to be followed.

Currently, Public Health England advice is for anyone who feels hot to touch or with a measured fever > 37.8oC to stay at home for 7 days. Anyone with a new, continuous cough, or a new loss of smell or taste should also isolate for 7 days. The whole household should isolate for 14 days. Fortunately, everyone can now be tested for COVID-19 if they have symptoms. In Northern Ireland, only children over 5 can be tested but the rest of the UK is testing all ages. You apply online for a test at which will either be in a drive-through facility or a kit sent to your home. The test needs to be done in the first 5 days of symptoms to be accurate.

The test involves taking a swab from the nose and back of the throat. Adults and older children can do their own but parents will be asked to do a swab from younger children. The swab is very quick but not necessarily easy to do, especially in small, wriggly people. To get an accurate result, the swab needs to be taken from far back in the nose – as far back as you go to make yourself gag. This is not pleasant but can be fast. It is really important to try and get an accurate result, both for your own peace of mind but also for everyone’s safety. We would recommend, if possible, having one adult to hold and comfort the child, and another to take the swab. The photo shows a good hold to use to do this – you wrap one arm in a big cuddle round the child’s arms, and the other gently holds the forehead still.

You use the same swab – so definitely tickle the throat first, before using the same swab for the nose! Results are taking a variable length of time to come back but if the result is negative, showing your child does not have COVID-19, self isolation can end… and your child can return to school or nursery if they are well enough.

Just a note on fevers though…. We are still seeing children present late to a doctor as parents remain worried about coming to hospital or the GP and some are putting any fever down to COVID. Here is the current advice on what to look out for and where to seek help… and just to reassure you, all children admitted to hospital can have a parent/carer with them provided that the adult is well.

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