First facts, then feelings
First, get the facts about the test. If you have heard about the nasalpharangeal swab, you will be aware that it is not the most comfortable experience. Testing for COVID-19 involves inserting a 6-inch long swab (like a long Q-tip) into the cavity between the nose and mouth for about 15 seconds and rotating it several times. The swabbing may then be repeated on the other side of the nose to make sure enough material is collected. Once complete, the swab is then inserted into a container and sent to a lab for testing.
If you are feeling uneasy before your test, tell the healthcare worker administrating your test that you feel anxious or concerned. If they know how you are feeling, they can better guide you through the experience and make it as easy as possible for you. Before you go, know that the discomfort is temporary, but there is great benefit to you and those around you in terms of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Preparing your children
For children who don’t understand the procedure, it can be especially scary. The key to making the testing process easier is to first explain it to your children in as much detail as necessary. For younger children, you could turn it into a light-hearted story about needing to free their nose of unwanted visitors.
If you prepare children emotionally and physically, then they won’t be so alarmed when a nurse in full protective gear reaches forward to take the swab. This psychological first aid helps reduce pain and fear to a few moments of discomfort. And remember they will likely mirror your behaviour, so it’s important for parents to remain calm.
Waiting for your results
Adults and children may find waiting for their test results stressful. Thankfully, there are ways to take your mind off the outcome. For most people, this means re-establishing some form of control. You might find it reassuring to make a plan (e.g. preparing your living, washing and eating arrangements) should the result be positive. It’s also a good idea to distract yourself from the pandemic by avoiding the news and the daily chatter on social media. Fill your time with pleasant things, like focusing on a hobby or doing something that relaxes you. Remember, if you do have a positive test result, healthcare professionals are there to support and guide you through your next steps.
Over the coming months, it’s likely that the time taken to get your results will fall from 24 hours or so to as little as 20 minutes. Also, new methods of diagnostic testing are being explored. While this may remove the discomfort and the anticipation factor surrounding waiting for the result, it’s always best to prepare mentally and physically before getting a swab should you test positive.