Motherhood-Mom Talk-COVID testing for kids 2

My 4-year-old had to get a COVID-19 test done yesterday. Having been through it as a parent, I would like to share a few things to consider before taking your child to get tested.

My son broke his elbow just by landing on it wrong and was required to take a COVID test to be admitted into surgery.

There is a whole mental component that is forgotten when a young child is getting tested for COVID. A stranger is approaching them in what basically looks like a hazmat suit, fully covered, with a long stick that will be going up their nose. As a mother and a former preschool teacher with an education in early childhood development, I can attest to how much children rely on facial expressions to create connections and get a sense of the environment. Due to COVID, every hospital employee is suited up from head to toe, making it difficult for the child to read any kind of facial expression and create those social connections with the staff.

If a child is getting a COVID test, it will most likely be because they either have surgery or some form of a procedure in the near future. Given children are not getting a COVID test "just cause," other factors need to be considered when it comes to your child's temperament when taking the test. They most likely already had several doctor visits, tests, lab work, and in my son's case, x-rays. If your child is relatively healthy and is not use to multiple doctor visits in a short period of time, the COVID test could add another element of stress and unknowns that can be uncomfortable and scary for your child.

The test is rapid but painful, especially for young children. The most challenging part was having BOTH nostrils swabbed. Once they swab the first nostril, the child is very much aware of how painful it is and will resist the test on the second round. Due to how far up the nose they have to go, the test becomes increasingly difficult the more the child refuses.

We went through a drive-through center, so my child was restrained in his car seat, making the second swap possible to get despite his resistance. My child was in tears immediately once he realized how far up his nose they were. The test was mere seconds, but my son took 15 minutes to calm down. I tried distractions, but nothing worked. I just sat and hugged him until he felt calm again.

So how should you prepare your child if they have an upcoming COVID-19 test?

1) Mentally Prepare Them

Tell them exactly what to expect. Emphasize how quick it will be and how this test will help the doctors take the right precautions to make sure everything is safe during the procedure. Tell them the only reason the nurses are covered from head to toe is for everyone's protection to stop the spread of germs.

2) Distractions

Watching something will be difficult because the nurse will be blocking their view as they collect a mucus sample. You can try singing or have them listen to something through headphones. However, the test takes just seconds, and the set up for the distraction will take lon]ger than the actual test. I would suggest giving them something they can squeeze if it is painful for them.

3) Be Supportive and Understanding

If your child is getting tested because they have an upcoming procedure, understand your child is experiencing many unknowns. Their temperament may be less patient; they may be more anxious and scared. Validate these feelings, communicate with them with, "I know" statements. "I know this seems scary." "I know you are going through a lot." Then reassure them that you will be right there and emphasize how short the test will be.

Now, I did all these things for my child, and he still screamed when it happened and cried for 15 minutes after it was over. Sometimes, all the preparation in the world won't help with the pain, but how you respond to your child during this time will.