Explained: how five-year-olds should be tested for coronavirus

Whether drive-through or done at home, the procedure is the same – but trickier for children

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Haroon Siddique

Tue 19 May 2020 12.27 BSTLast modified on Tue 19 May 2020 21.40 BST
Women being tested for Covid-19
The Covid-19 test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which can be done by someone else if necessary. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian
Anyone in the UK aged five and over with symptoms is now eligible for a coronavirus test. The Department for Health and Social Care says it is currently unsuitable for children under five.

The options are to get a drive-through appointment or a home-testing kit but either way they involve a similar procedure.

Coronavirus tests in the UK – who qualifies for one?
The test involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, which can be done by the person themselves or by someone else.

Taking swabs from children is likely to be challenging given the intrusive nature of the procedure but experts say the key is to get them to stay as still as possible.
Among the suggested methods for putting children at ease are getting them to count to three or take a deep breath. They can also hold something that may provide comfort such as a soft toy, favourite blanket or stress ball. Alternatively, they could be given a tablet computer to watch, although, for the nose swab test, the child will have to look up so it should be placed above them.
The NHS guidance is to place the tip of the cotton bud gently just inside one of the nostrils and gently wipe it around before repeating on the other nostril with the same swab. No force is required and there is no need to push the bud far into the nostril.

Obtaining the swab from the throat involves opening the mouth wide, sticking out the tongue and wiping the soft tip of the swab several times across the back of the throat, behind the arch. Ensure you swab the sides of the arch where the tonsils protrude and try to avoid swabbing the tongue and teeth. NHS England warns that taking the throat swab may make you gag but should not be painful.

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