With the Omicron variant spreading rapidly, it looks like many of us will be doing a lot more self-testing than usual in the run up to Christmas.
People are being urged to take regular lateral flow tests to slow the spread – including those who are fully vaccinated in England now being asked to do a lateral flow test every day for seven days if they come into contact with someone with Covid-19.
For some people, swabbing the back of the throat and their nose has become second nature, but what if you still find it very unpleasant – or if you struggle to administer a child’s test? There are ways to make Covid tests easier. Follow these pro tips for grown-ups and kids.
Direct the swab straight – not up the nose
Some photos show people inserting the nasal swab upwards, but in order to do the test correctly, and to make it more comfortable, it’s better to keep the swab nearly parallel to the ground. “It’s probably not going into the right place if it’s going up,” says Dr Paul Ettlinger, founder of London General Practice (thelondongeneralpractice.com).
To correctly reach the nasopharynx – situated in the space between the back of the nose and the soft palate – he advises:
“Place the swab at the beginning of the nostril and gently push it back about 2.5cm, then stop when you feel resistance.”
Hum or sing
The lady who gave me my covid test told me to tell you all to hum while you’re getting tested.
It opens up your nasal cavity and gives you something to think about other than a cotton swab in your nose.
— Charlie. (@stay_dehydrated) January 13, 2021
“If you hum while taking the nasal swab it helps to distract from the tickling sensation,” says Dr Ettlinger. “And with the throat swab, try and sing, which opens up the back of the pharynx, and distracts from the sensation. That’s what I tell all my patients to do.”
Explain testing to children
“Talk children through the process and ask them to ask any questions,” advises Dr Audrey Tang, psychologist and author of The Leader’s Guide to Resilience.
“You might demonstrate it with them before they get there or let them demonstrate it on their toy, depending on the child’s age.”
Hussain Abdeh, clinical director and superintendent pharmacist at Medicine Direct (medicinedirect.co.uk), says: “Being slightly silly about the procedure can help to make them feel more comfortable, too. Making a light joke about having to put something up their nose can take the seriousness out of the situation, which makes it seem like less of a big deal to the child.”
Use comfort and distraction
“Sitting your child on your knee is a comforting way to conduct the test and can make it seem less frightening,” says Abdeh.
“If you are conducting the test at home, you could do this in front of the television, so they have something to distract their attention while you are collecting a sample. Just make sure it is in a sterilised area.”
Don’t keep checking the result
Does waiting to see if one or two red lines will appear on the lateral flow test stress you out?
Abdeh says: “It may be tempting to keep checking where the red line is every 30 seconds, but all this is going to do is work you up into a frenzy. Covid tests will not show an accurate result straight away, so it’s a waste of time and energy looking at the result until the right amount of time has gone by. Set a timer and only check it once the instructed amount of time has passed.”