Tips to help make COVID-19 testing easier for kids

Getting tested for COVID-19 might feel scary to some children. As parents or guardians, we want to make it as easy as possible for them. Preparing our kids for a COVID-19 test ahead of time can help make it less uncomfortable.

You know your kids best and you know what works for them. Think ahead about what your kids might need to know about the test. Kids often do what they see adults do so staying calm while talking about the test can help them stay calm. Use language that your child understands.

Make sure your kids know what COVID-19 is and why they are getting tested.

  • Explain that some people might feel sick if they have the virus and others might have the virus, but not feel sick. Either way they can give the virus to others.
  • Let them know that many people get tested for COVID-19. It’s normal to be tested.

Explain what the process will look like.

  • The person giving the test may wear protective clothing like gloves, a robe, a mask and a face shield. Explain that they wear it to keep themselves safe in case someone they are testing has the virus.
  • Let your children know where the test will be, how long it will take, what happens in the test, and what you will do after the test.
  • If the test will use a swab up the nose or in the throat, explain that the tester will use a long stick with a soft end up the child’s nose. It will only be for a few seconds. Let them know that some kids say it feels strange, some say it hurts, and others say it doesn’t bother them.
  • Some tests may need a saliva sample.
  • Explain that the tester will tell them what to do to during the test. They may tell them to pull down or take off their mask for the test.

Make a plan with your kids about what to do during the test.

  • It might help to frame their roles in the test as a job. Their job is to stay still like a statue during the test and to follow instructions. You can let them know that they may feel like pushing the swab away during the test, but that it’s really important that they stay still.
  • Ask them what they can do to help them stay still. Some ideas are counting, hugging a stuffed animal, taking deep breaths or thinking of a favorite activity. 
  • Ask them how you can help them during the test.

When the test is over:

  • Let them know you’re proud of them for helping to keep everyone safe by getting tested.
  • Explain to them how you’ll find out the results of the test. 
  • Let your children know what it will mean if they test positive for COVID-19. They will have to stay home and quarantine. Reassure them that you’ll make sure everyone’s needs are met while you’re staying at home, like having groceries delivered or relying on friends to drop off any needed items.

What about COVID-19 testing in schools?

With the support of OHA, many schools will be testing students for COVID-19 this year. By identifying infections early, school testing helps keep COVID-19 transmission low and students in school for in-person learning, sports and extracurricular activities.

Schools can choose to participate in COVID-19 testing. OHA will offer two types of testing at schools that choose to opt in – diagnostic and screening.

  • Diagnostic is the testing of students or staff who develop symptoms at school or are exposed to COVID-19 at school. This testing program was rolled out in January 2021 and more than 90% of K-12 schools were registered for this program in the 2020-2021 academic school year.
  • Screening is the testing of students or staff who do not have symptoms of, or exposure to, COVID-19.
  • Each school will determine its own testing strategy. To learn about how your children’s school will be testing you can find out by reading your school communications, looking on the website or contacting the school directly.
  • If a child tests positive for COVID-19 at a school screening, the result will be reported to the parent or guardian and the Local Public Health Authority (LPHA). No results are shared with the school.
  • If another student in your child’s cohort tests positive, the LPHA will work on contact tracing and case investigation. Someone from the LPHA may call you to talk about the possibility of contagion. 

Learn more about how Oregon schools have prepared to keep students safe here. And you can find out more about COVID-19 testing here.

Remember: If your child is 12 or older, they qualify for COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccination is still the safest way to protect your child from severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. You can find a vaccine here.