The morning routine may look different for some Australian families at the moment.

In between breakfast and packing school bags, some children need to take a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) to keep their school communities safe. Multiple weekly tests are quickly becoming a part of everyday life for families, and we know it's not always easy.  

For some children, the tests can be scary, unfamiliar and uncomfortable, so we've put together a few helpful tips on how to help your child take a RAT. 

When should my child take a RAT? 

Some schools are requesting that children take a RAT once or twice a week to keep their classmates, teachers and communities safe. Keep an eye on your school's guidelines for how often you need to be testing.  

Look out for symptoms. If your child is unwell – even with mild symptoms – keep them home and take a RAT. If symptoms continue your child should stay home and take another test in 24 hours.

For more information about testing, visitng the Australian Government Department of Health website.   
Talk your child through the steps and remain calm. © UNICEF/UN0428626/Calkic

Before the test 

Have an honest conversation with you child about why they're taking the test and what to expect.  
  Talk them through the steps and say something like “we're doing the test to make sure everyone stays safe and doesn't get sick, it might be a bit uncomfortable, but we'll get it done quickly.” Explain that they are helping to keep themselves and their friends and family safe. 
"Consider a small reward after a test.
“Try to be calm and matter-of-fact as children will be more reluctant if they sense you are distressed,” says Dr. Amanda Wright, a GP in Melbourne. “Consider a small reward after a test for reluctant children, such as a star chart.” 

For little ones, it may help to have them seated on your lap and facing you. You can steady their head on your shoulder or arm. Children over five may find it helpful to see the swab demonstrated on a toy or parent.  

Taking the test  

  1. Read the instructions carefully before the test and while you follow the steps as not all RATs are the same. Wash your hands before opening the test. 
  2. For a nasal swab test, have your child blow their nose into a tissue and wipe their nose clean, before discarding the tissue. The golden rule is ‘low and slow’. Rather than pointing the nasal swab high into the child's nose, direct the swab in a horizontal direction and carefully insert it into the nose along the bottom of the nasal passage. Reassure them as you do this.  
  3. Slowly rotate the swab from side to side about one to two centimetres inside the child's nose for around 15 seconds. Repeat the process with the swab inside the other nostril. Give your child positive reinforcement for getting through it and being brave.   
  4. Place the swab immediately into the liquid solution. Pinch the sides of the plastic tube and rotate the swab around 10 times so the solution mixes. Squeeze four drops of the solution onto the testing device.  
  5. Discard the nasal swab and solution, wash your hands and wait 15 minutes before checking the testing device.  
Still not sure? Watch the step-by-step video below.


Reading the results  

The testing device has two letters in the result window: C for control and T for Test. The line against the letter C indicates that the test has reacted to the liquid. If there is no line against the C, the test has not worked.  

A line against the letter T indicates a positive COVID-19 result. If there is no line against the T and your child does not have symptoms, they are all set to go to school. 

It can be helpful to explain what will come up on the test to your child so they feel involved and can look out for the positive lines. 

What to do if my child tests positive? 

If your child tests positive, don’t panic. Most children will have either no symptoms or mild, flu-like symptoms. Very few children will need to be hospitalised.  

If your child has a positive result, they will need to isolate and not go to school. Follow your local government guidelines but calmly explain to them that by staying home they will protect their friends, family and community. Plan some fun activities while they're quarantining and reassure them that they'll be back at school soon. 

Keep an eye out for fever and treat with paracetamol or ibuprofen. If you’re concerned, contact your GP. Most GPs can now provide telehealth consultations.  

If your child tests positive with a RAT you must register it through your local department of health as soon as possible. Notify your child’s school and keep them at home.  

For more information call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 or visit the Australian Government Department of Health website.