Kids and Covid Swabs: Top Tips for No-Tears Testing

Covid testing isn’t the most delightful experience for anyone, but if your child gets extra skittish around the swab, there are some easy steps you can take to help make things more comfortable. Here are tips from members to help create a smoother testing experience for your little one.

Talk beforehand about the test and why it’s important. Whether the test is needed to visit relatives, go to school, fly on a plane, or just provide reassurance, sharing the background and talking about how important and helpful the test is can calm kids’ apprehension.


Tell stories. Make up a tale about a kid who was nervous about a Covid test that wasn’t so bad after all—it might just come true!


Provide choices. Asking “which nostril first?” or “whose lap do you want to sit on?” can go a long way. More context on how choices can help from here:


Choices: Provide power in a powerless environment; 

Agenda: Letting the patient and family know what to expect and what is expected of them; 

Resilience: Start with strengths and reframe negatives; and 

Emotions: Recognize and normalize common fears and responses.


Start with an at-home test. Allowing your kid to swab themselves first can help them get used to the sensation and feel more comfortable when getting swabbed professionally.


Or even just a Q-tip. Pass around cotton buds and hold their hand while they swab themselves to get comfortable with the feeling. One parent went a step further and held “Covid Class”: “practicing with a q-tip (tapping first on forehead, then nose, then touching each nostril, inside each nostril, then circles in each nostril) so that he was comfy. Just like 3-5 minutes, low pressure, a few times in the week before the test.”


Treats during and after the test. If you’re doing an at-home swab, putting on an episode of their favorite show during the test and offering something yummy afterward is easy and can smooth the process out for everyone. Or offer the treat in increments: One parent advised “bite before first nostril, bite before second, rest at the end. “


Gently hold them still. If you’re concerned about a full-blown tantrum and having to hold your kid down, you might try gently and preemptively restraining them with their consent before it becomes a necessity. One parent shared: “[I] calmly say: ‘ok, now mommy is going to hold your body to help you stay still and then it’s done.’ And then I hold her tight, including her head, while someone else swabs. It seems to make everyone feel better when we physically restrain her before she has lost her mind and is sobbing, rather than after.”


Tell them how brave they are!


Further reading on Park Slope Parents:

Covid Vaccines and Kids Ages 5–11: Tips for a Painless Poke

Covid Testing in Brooklyn: Where to Go and What to Know


Further reading around the web:

How To Get Your Nervous Kid To Let You Put A Covid Test Up Their Nose