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COVID Testing: Tips to Help Parents Navigate

New year, new COVID test, right? As the highly transmissible Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 continues at high circulation, causing increased pediatric cases and hospitalizations, parents and caregivers are undoubtedly working overtime to try to navigate the ever changing COVID-19 testing landscape. Confusion is understandable as different scenarios warrant different tests at different times. It can be tricky to figure out exactly when to take a test if you’re exposed, what kind of test is best if you’re experiencing symptoms, rapid antigen versus PCR, how many days to isolate…there’s a lot to consider. 

Let’s start out with some key points about at home rapid antigen tests, four of which you can now obtain free by registering at These are a reliable option in certain situations, although I am acknowledging that access can be difficult. However, sometimes a home test is the best option, if conducted correctly. For instance, if someone is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, their first move can be to take a rapid home test to confirm. If the test is positive, TRUST the results and isolate for the appropriate number of days while hydrating and easing symptoms. Stay home and try to avoid visiting a medical facility unless clinical care is needed.

Of course, you can only trust the results if the home test is done correctly. Here is my guidance:        

Get an adequate sample and follow the directions exactly. 

This may not  be fun for your child (or you), but it’s important to get a sample from well within the lining of the nasal cavity, as coronavirus is often more concentrated in the nasopharynx, where the upper part of the throat meets the nose. In order to access this, the entire cotton tip of the swab should be inserted into the nostril and swirled around the nostril, scraping the sides several times, for several seconds. The testing kit should give you a clear number of times to swirl the swab around, so follow those directions exactly for the most accurate results.

Keep Your Child’s Head Still + Stable When Testing

This is a tough one for squirmy toddlers, and of course the testing swabs only come in one size, making it even more difficult to keep them still when trying to obtain a sample. It’s not only important to keep the child still for accuracy purposes, but for safety reasons as well. Tap into your own inner calmness by speaking calmly to your child, taking a deep breath, and encouraging them to do the same. I always ask kids to stand up against a wall as I swab the nose so they can’t tilt or yank their heads back. Positive reinforcement can motivate kids to sit still, so I like to use fun rewards for them to look forward to when the task is complete. 

A Faint Line Does Not Lie!

Any line, even a faint one, should be interpreted as positive. If a child has symptoms, that’s even more reason to believe the test, stay home, and treat the symptoms appropriately to increase comfort while your child rides out the virus. Also, a reminder to scan the QR code on the test kit to report your positive results so health officials can obtain an accurate idea of cases in specific regional areas. You can contact your local department of health to report as well.

Wishing you all the best of health as we navigate this challenging time together.