Does your child need to undergo Covid-19 testing? Here are some tips to ease her into it.
What can you read in this article?
- COVID symptoms in kids
- When should a child be tested for Covid?
- Tips to prepare your child for Covid-19 testing
Now that we’re seeing a surge of new Covid-19 cases in the country, the chances of acquiring the virus are bigger. It’s highly likely that you know someone who’s been infected, and as much as we want to avoid it, there may come a time when we, and even our child needs to be subjected to Covid-19 testing or also known as swab test.
It’s common for children to be a little bit anxious about medical procedures – they hate getting their blood taken or having to pass a urine or stool sample. So it’s quite understandable if they will be worried about Covid-19 testing. So how do you ease their worry and prepare them for it?
Before we dive into that, let’s have a quick background on Covid-19 on children.
Covid-19 in kids
Image source: iStock
According to the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS), approximately 12 percent of the Covid-19 cases come from the pediatric age group. And because of the emergence of the new variants (such as Delta and Omicron), Covid-19 is now highly transmissible and can cause mild to severe symptoms in children.
The virus can spread through air droplets – via coughing, sneezing, talking, singing, and even just regular breathing. If you are closer than 6 feet from an infected person, you can catch the virus if the viral particles land directly on your eyes, nose, or mouth.
These droplets can also land on objects and surfaces, which children can touch. And when they rub their eyes, nose, and mouth after touching the contaminated surface, they can get infected.
Coronavirus symptoms in kids
The most common signs of Covid-19 are fever, cough, and cold, but in some cases, the following symptoms can also be present:
- decreased appetite
- difficulty in breathing
- watery stools
- abdominal pain
- sore throat
- muscle pain
- loss of smell
- loss of taste
When should a child be tested for Covid?
According to the Parent’s Guide for Covid-19 in Children released by PPS, there are several instances that a child needs to undergo a swab test:
- When he is experiencing symptoms of Covid-19
- If he has been exposed (whether from home or travel) or had close contact with a suspected positive Covid-19 patient. The World Health Organization defines close contact if there person was exposed to the Covid-positive individual 2 days before or within 14 days after the onset of the symptoms of the confirmed case.
- If the infant was born to a Covid-19 positive or suspected case.
If your child is experiencing symptoms, testing should be done right away. But if your child is asymptomatic but has been exposed to a Covid-19 positive person, the best time to test is 5 to 7 days after the last exposure.
Preparing your child to take a swab test
Child health psychologists have studied and prepared hundreds of children and their families to undergo medical procedures with ease. While testing for Covid-19 may be new, effective ways to prepare kids for pain- and distress-free medical procedures are not. In fact, scientists and healthcare providers have been working at this for a long time!
From the article 6 Tips To Prepare Your Child For Easy Covid-19 Testing by Kathryn Birnie, assistant professor, and psychologist in Pediatric Pain from the University of Calgary, and Meghan McMurtry, clinical and health psychologist for the Pediatric Chronic Pain Program in McMaster Children’s Hospital, here are 6 top tips to prepare your child for easy COVID-19 testing:
What to do before
1. Prepare your child by sharing child-friendly information.
When children or their parents are nervous about upcoming medical procedures, parents sometimes think that the less information they share with their child, the better. The opposite is actually true.
Children have vivid imaginations that fill in the missing details, sometimes imagining things as much worse or scarier than they are in real life. Sharing age-appropriate information about medical procedures with children early on is a more effective way of reducing fears.
For the COVID-19 test, parents should describe in detail what children can expect — almost like telling a story. Important details include where they will go, who will be there, what they will see, how long it will take, what will happen and how it might feel.
Be honest with your child, stick to the facts, and use neutral language. For example, when describing how it might feel when the swab goes in: “Some kids say that it feels weird like having fizzy water up their nose and hurts a bit but others say it doesn’t really bother them.”
There are brief scripts and pictures about COVID-19 testing that you can use. There are also short videos created just for children from B.C. Children’s Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children or the Mayo Clinic. Watch these together to give you ideas for coping strategies.
2. Create a coping plan.
It’s important to plan the strategies you will use leading up to, during, and after the COVID-19 test. And, it gives time to practice your strategies. Knowing the plan makes it easier for children and their parents, especially if anyone is feeling nervous.
No matter your child’s age, they can be part of developing the coping plan. Younger children will need more parental support, but having “a job,” even one as simple as being in charge of sitting still, can increase their confidence. Older children and teenagers will have their own ideas of what helps them to feel relaxed and stay calm, and giving them choice when appropriate helps them feel empowered.
It’s especially important to plan for any aspects that might be particularly tricky for your child — when you help prepare them ahead of time (see No. 1), you might get some extra clues about when they need the most support.
3. Distract your child while you wait with something fun and interactive.
You and your child will likely wait in line in the car or on foot, which can lead to boredom, frustration, or increased worry about what is about to happen. Use this time to distract your child and engage them in something fun or interactive. Listen to music, ask your child about their favorite show, make up a story, let them play a game or watch a video on your phone or tell some jokes. Earphones may be helpful.
What to do during the swab test for COVID-19 Testing
If you have multiple family members getting tested at the same time, have the child who is the most relaxed or least worried go first. Or go first as a parent to model coping strategies and show how easy and quick the test can be.
4. Use comfort positioning.
Comfort positions (not restraint) help children to feel safe and calm during medical procedures. If you are in a drive-through testing site, parents can sit side by side in the car next to their child with their arm wrapped around their child. If you are in a testing center, younger children can sit on their parents’ lap either facing sideways or with their back to their parents’ chest. Parents then hold their child close, like a hug. Gently wrapping your child in a blanket before hugging them may help.
For some children, it may be helpful for parents to gently hold their child’s forehead to keep their head still during the swab. For older children and teens, parents can be seated next to them with a hand on their shoulder or leg to provide physical comfort while the swab is in.
5. Tell your child to look up, take deep breaths, count, and close their eyes.
Coaching your child to take some deep belly breaths from their mouth during the swab helps them to stay relaxed. Counting together to 20 (or even the parent counting alone) keeps your child’s attention on something other than the swab and helps them understand when it will be finished. Suggesting your child to close their eyes may also help.
Why you shouldn’t have second thoughts on getting the COVID-19 vaccine
Gabay para sa mga magulang sa panahon ng COVID-19
Is your child frightened of needles? Here’s how to prepare them for their COVID vaccine
What to do after COVID-19 Testing
6. Talk to your child about what they did well.
It’s very likely that your child will have to get more than one COVID-19 test in their life. Helping children remember the test experience in a factual or positive way makes it more likely that the next test will go well or even better.
Talk about something that they did well from their coping plan: for example, “You did a great job taking your big belly breaths.” You may even want to record a mini video interview with them on your phone afterward talking about what they did well — this could help for the next time.
Some children may be worried that getting tested for COVID-19 means that they have the virus. Remind them that this isn’t necessarily true, that the test results will come in a few days, and that you and others are here to help.
Caring for a Covid-19 positive child
As much as we all want to spare our children from the disease, sometimes, the test results come back positive. So after the Covid-19 testing, the next thing we have to prepare for is caring for your sick child. Keep in mind that even though the test results are negative, anyone who is exposed to a Covid-19 positive person should still quarantine for 14 days starting from the last exposure.
Here’s a chart on how to interpret Covid-19 test result, according to the Department of Health:
Photo from DOH Facebook page
Now, if it’s confirmed that your child has Covid, here’s a quick guide on how to care for them, according to the PPS Parent’s Guide:
First of all, you need to coordinate with your child’s pediatrician so she can assess your child’s health and determine if she can just recover at home, or if hospital care is needed. If she thinks home care is possible, here are the things that you should do.
Caring for a Covid-19 positive child at home
1. Monitor your child’s
- Temperature every 4 hours
- Oxygen level every 6 hours using a pulse oximeter. If not available, monitor for changes in the breathing pattern of the patient.
- Frequency, volume and color of your child’s urine/urination.
2. Encourage your child to rest.
3. Keep your child hydrated by giving plenty of fluids/water.
4. Use fever-reducing medications if your child has a fever.
5. Give age-appropriate healthy foods. Offer soft, varied foods that are easy to chew and swallow.
6. Continue breastfeeding
When should you call his pediatrician?
Inform your child’s doctor if he/she has any of the following symptoms:
- persistent fever or fever of 38.1°C and above
- refuses to drink or eat
- ear pain or with fluid coming out of the ear
- runny or stuffy nose for 2 weeks or longer
- bad cough or chest pain
- persistent headache
- breathing problems
- abdominal pain
- is getting sicker 42
When should I bring my child to the hospital?
Bring your child to the emergency room if he/she:
- appears dehydrated; the signs include dizziness, drowsiness, a dry or sticky mouth, sunken eyes, crying with few or no tears, peeing less often or has fewer wet diapers
- is unable to drink or talk
- is confused or drowsy
- has trouble breathing, is breathing fast, or looks pale or blue around the lips 41, 44
- has oxygen levels of less than 95% if using a pulse oximeter
For more information on how to care for your sick child, and how to protect your family from Covid-19, read the full guide from PPS or read this.
Republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore
Additional updates by Camille Eusebio
PPS, DOH, CDC
Here at theAsianparent Philippines, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advise or medical treatment. TheAsianparent Philippines is not responsible to those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend to consult your doctor for clearer information.