COVID-19 Tests for Children and Toddlers

When children come together at school, germs are bound to spread. But how do you know if your child has Covid-19?

It is really important that if your children show symptoms of coronavirus or are requested to have a test that you make sure it is done correctly.

What To Do If Your Child Has Symptoms

It’s common for children, toddlers and babies to become unwell, especially during the autumn and winter months when illnesses such as the flu and common cold are circulating. Due to the risk of coronavirus, it’s important that you get your child tested if they develop any of the following three symptoms.

  • Either a new continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • A high temperature – your child may feel hot to the touch on their chest or back (you don’t need to check the temperature)
  • A loss of or change in smell and taste

You can find more information on how to book a test here.

When Your Child Should Get A Test

My child only has one of the symptoms. Do they still need a test?

Yes. If you or your child has any of the main coronavirus symptoms – either a new continuous cough, a fever, or a loss of or change in smell and taste – you should get them tested.

What is considered a continuous cough?

Your child needs to be tested if they have a cough that has lasted for more than an hour, if they have had three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours, or if they are coughing more than usual

How do I know if my child has a high temperature or fever?

A high temperature is feeling hot to the touch on your chest or back – the child may feel warm, cold or shivery. If you have a thermometer you can take their temperature – a high temperature is 37.8C or higher.

Do they still need to be tested if they have other symptoms as well?

Yes. If your child has any of the main COVID-19 symptoms (a new continuous cough, fever, loss of or change in smell and taste) they need to be tested even if they have other unrelated symptoms like a sore tummy, earache, or a runny nose.

Do they need to be tested if they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms but have other symptoms instead?

If your child doesn’t have symptoms of COVID-19 but has other cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, they don’t need to be tested.

My child’s symptoms are very mild, do they still need to be tested?

Yes – no matter how serious the symptoms are, they still need to be tested. Even if they’re not very ill, they could still pass it on to others.

Can I wait and see if their symptoms get worse before I take them for a test?

No. Don’t wait to get tested if you or your child shows any symptoms. You should have your child tested within three days of their symptoms starting, as tests are only effective for five days after the symptoms first appear.

Does everyone in our household need to self-isolate?

It’s advised that everyone within the household should isolate until you’ve got the test results back.

How To Test A Child

How do I book a test?

To book a test, go to the NHS website and follow the instructions. If you can’t book online, you can call 111. See below for more information on what happens after you’ve booked your test and tips for helping you carry out the test on your child.

What does the test involve?

A swab from the tonsils and then inside the nose (a swab looks like a big cotton bud). You’ll be given an instruction booklet that takes you through everything step-by-step so make sure you read through this carefully before getting started. See this guide for additional information on how to test children under 5.

Will it hurt?

The test doesn’t hurt, but it can be a bit uncomfortable. When the swab touches the tonsils it may make you gag or retch a bit, and the nasal swab may make your eyes water. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal. However, it may seem a bit scary for children, so take a look at our tips below to see how you can make it easier for them

How soon will I get the results?

For lateral flow tests, you should be able to get a result within 20 minutes. For PCR postal kits you should get the results back by text or email within 48 hours – no more than 72 hours. Remember that your whole household must self-isolate until you get the results.

What if I can’t carry out the test on my child?

If it’s impossible to get a throat swab from your child you can take two nose swabs instead, one from each nostril. If you find you can’t carry out the test at all because your child is too upset or it hurts them, you can decide to self-isolate instead. This means your child can’t go to school or nursery until they have been in self-isolation for 10 days from when they first got ill. If they still have a fever for more than 10 days, they need to continue isolating for 48 hours after it ends. See the infographic below for tips on how to carry out a test on a child.

What Happens After The Test

What if my child becomes very unwell and we’re waiting for a test result?

Children with coronavirus don’t usually become severely unwell, but always seek medical advice if you’re concerned about your child, even if you’re self-isolating. You can call your GP surgery or 111 for advice and support. Coronavirus is still spreading in the UK, but it’s important to remember that there are other illnesses to watch out for.

Do they need to self-isolate while they wait for a test?

Yes. It’s important that children stay at home until their test result has been confirmed as either positive or negative.

What if my child tests positive?

If your child tests positive they need to self-isolate for 10 days from the day their symptoms first appeared. They can leave the house after 10 days if they’re improving and no longer have a temperature. If they still have a temperature, they shouldn’t leave the house until 48 hours after it’s gone down. If you’re unsure, follow the guidelines on the NHS website.

How can I help my child if they test positive?

If you live with someone who’s vulnerable or is on the shielding list, try to keep your child away from them while they’re isolating, to reduce the risk of them passing on any infection. No one can expect children to stay in their rooms for 10 days, but there are some precautions you can take! Try to keep the house well ventilated, to let fresh air in. If you have a garden, make sure they get outside regularly.

What if they test negative?

If the child that had symptoms tests negative and no one else in your household has symptoms, they can stop isolating and go back to school or nursery when they are well enough and have not had a fever for 48 hours.

If my child tests negative, can they go back to school straightaway?

Yes. As soon as your child receives a negative result, they can return to school if they feel well enough. Anyone else self-isolating in the household can also go back to school, work and their usual activities.

What if the test is unclear or inconclusive?

In some cases the test result may come back as ‘unclear’, which means the test was unable to say whether you definitely do or don’t have coronavirus. If this happens, you can ask for another test.

I have one child who tested negative and one who tested positive. Does the child with the negative test still need to isolate?

No. The child who tested negative no longer needs to self-isolate, but keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t develop symptoms later. If symptoms develop, they must self-isolate immediately, and you should book them a PCR test.

How will my child continue to learn if they need to self-isolate?

If your child needs to self-isolate, their school will have plans in place to allow their learning to continue.

Children and COVID-19 Tests for Travel

Do children need a Covid Test for travel?

Whether or not your child needs to take a Covid test will depend on the country they are travelling to. Children aged 10 and under do not need to take a pre-departure test to travel to England. The rules on travelling with children depend on their age and their country of residence. If the children you are travelling with are aged 4 and under, they don’t have to take COVID-19 travel tests. If your child is aged 5 to 17 years old, there are two rules they have to adhere to for testing. If your child is resident in another country and is aged 5 to 17 years old, and that country is not on the approved proof of vaccination list, they will need to take a COVID-19 test if they are aged 11 or above before travelling to England. They will also need to take a day 2 and 8 tests when they have arrived in England.

Where can I buy Covid travel tests for myself and my children?

You must use a private provider of Covid testing like Medicspot who provides fast and reliable COVID-19 testing for the whole family. Simply order your test online (free next day delivery), perform your tests and return using a free Royal Mail returns label. NHS tests cannot be used for the purpose of international travel.

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