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Tips to Collect a Swab from Kids

This video shows how to collect a nasal swab from a young child.

We are so glad you (and your child) are here. SCAN kits include a nasal (nose) swab and a Quick Start Card with instructions on how to safely collect a sample. Please read and follow those directions first. Use the tips on this page together with those instructions to safely collect a sample from your infant, toddler, or preschooler.

For Infants (0-1 years)

The most important thing is to make your infant feel as safe and comfortable as possible. If you can, ask a second adult to help. Talk in a soothing voice as you go through the steps, and remember that the swab will only be in your child’s nose for about five seconds. Then you can snuggle and reward them for helping science!

infant illustration@2x

  • Put your child in a safe, stable place (a blanket on the floor, a changing table, another adult’s arms).
  • Consider swaddling them in a warm, cozy blanket to help them relax and keep their arms from bumping you.
  • Give them a pacifier if it might help calm them (make sure you can still see their nostrils).

For Toddlers (1-3 years)

Every toddler is different, and you know yours best. Generally, it helps to put them in a comfortable, secure place, like a car seat or highchair. If you have an adult helper, you might place the child in their lap. We recommend having your child’s back against the adult’s chest, so the child is facing toward the person with the swab. Then you’re ready to get started!

toddler illustration@2x

  • Be playful, if your child responds well to things like calling the swab tool a “nose tickler” or “booger picker.”
  • Let them know it will be quick! You can even count to five together while you do it.
  • Offer comfort and a distraction by playing a video or having them hold a favorite toy.
  • Reward your child with something they love (like a toy, fun sticker, or piece of candy).

For Preschoolers

Preschoolers might have a lot of questions about what you’re doing and why. We recommend staying positive and answering their questions with clear, simple facts. For example, you might say, “We’re going to see what’s up your nose.” Why? “Because it will help scientists keep kids like you healthy.” Will it hurt? “There’s no poke, but it will be a little uncomfortable for about five seconds.” Promising a favorite reward at the end can also help!

preschool illustration@2x

  • If they can hold still, have them sit on a chair or stand in front of you while you sit on a chair. If you have an adult helper, your child could sit in their lap.
  • Be playful, if your child responds well to things like calling the swab tool a “nose tickler” or “booger picker.”
  • Offer comfort and a distraction by playing a video or having them hold a favorite toy.
  • Reward your child with something they love (like a toy, fun sticker, or piece of candy).

Published 4/10/2020