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How To Complete A Home Swab Test

Testing to see if you or a family member has COVID-19 is now more widely available.

You can ask for a test if you have one or more symptoms of the virus;

  • A temperature of 38°C or above.
  • A new cough.
  • A loss of taste and/or smell.

Tests need to be completed as soon as possible after you first get symptoms – ideally before day three and always before day 5. After day 5 the results are not accurate. 

*Click Here* for advice on spotting illness in children or call your GP or 111 for advice if you are worried.

*Click here* to read more about how to get your free test.

The test process is the same for children and grown ups. You may feel a bit worried about carrying out the test on yourself or your children. The test is not hard to do – it will come with instructions. You can also see below for a step by step guide. Take your time to look at this so you feel more prepared and confident to have a go.

What To Expect And How You Can Help...

Your test may arrive in the post or may be brought to your home by a courier. You will be told which when you request your test.

If you are going to be swabbing your child make sure you feel well informed and as relaxed as you can about it before you begin.

You might want to do your own swab in front of your child first if you feel you will cope with it well.

The swab supplied is used on both the nose and the throat. 

    • A request form – you will need to fill this out using a pen that won’t smudge (ideally black).
    • A swab (like a long cotton bud).
    • 2 plastic tubes – the smallest tube is for the swab. The biggest will be the container for the completed swab in its tube.
    • The small tube has a special fluid in it – this keeps the sample fresh so do not empty it.
    • A cardboard box.
    • An envelope – plain if it will be collected by a courier. Addressed if it is to be returned by post.

    If you are going to do a swab on yourself having a mirror will help. 


  • Tell your child about the test. Keep the explanation short and simple to suit their age. Be honest with them, tell them it may feel scratchy or uncomfortable but it won't take long. 

    Why the test is needed.

    • To check if they have the virus, make sure they get the right care and make sure the virus doesn’t get passed around.

    What the test is.

    • A wipe of their throat and up their nose with a big cotton bud to see if there are virus germs there.

    How you will take the test.

    • It is very quick. First they will open their mouth wide – say ‘arhhh’ and you will wipe the swab at the back of the throat. It might make them cough. Then you will put the same swab just inside each nostril, this might tickle. Then it will be all done.

    Let them choose a nice drink close by for afterwards then maybe watch a film or read a book together.


  • Wash your hands well. *Click here* for more information and videos about how to wash hands well.

    Choose an area where you will have space to open the kit and be able to complete the test. Give it a clean with a soapy cloth, or an anti-bacterial spray can be used.

    1. Loosen the lid on the small tube.
    2. Open the swab packet.
    3.  Open your own / or get your child to open their mouth wide – say ‘arhhhh’ this helps keep the tongue out of the way.
    4. Wipe the swab at the back of the throat first – right at the back make sure you include where the tonsils are / were.
    5. Try not to get the swab on the teeth or tongue.
    6. Next put the same swab just inside each nostril and wipe it around.
    7. Put the swab tip down into the small tube – snap off at marked spot so that it fits, screw on the lid.
    8. Wash your hands well again.
    • Write the name and date of birth, of the person who has been swabbed on the outside of the small tube with the swab inside. You will also need to write the date of the day you took the swab. This is very important. Your GP may include sticky labels.
    • Put the small tube with the swab in into the bigger tube and screw on lid.
    • Put the tube into the box supplied.
    • Put the completed request form into the box.

  • Postal

    • If your test is postal you do not need to pay for return postage.
    • Ask a friend or family member from a symptom free household to put it in a post box for you.
    • Leave it on the doorstep for them to collect as soon as possible.
    • If you do not have anyone to ask – a person from your house can walk to the post box to post it. Keep to a social distance of 2 metres from others. Go straight back home.


    • You will be given instructions on how and when the courier will collect your test in the instructions that came with your test.

    Your results should be available in 72 hours.



  • Take your time and try not to let any anxiety you are feeling show. Breathe deeply and slowly. Keep your voice calm and low. If there is another grown up in your home get them to help – your child might want to sit on their lap or hold their hand. If there is no other adult remind yourself that you can do this.

    • Tell your child the swabbing will be quick and needs to be done. Let them choose a teddy to squeeze. If your child is young, teddy could have a pretend swab first (don’t use the real swab!).
    • Help them slow down their breathing, count to ten, play some music they like or sing a song.
    • Talk to them about a nice thing you will do together later.
    • Get them to concentrate on making the loudest ‘arhhhh’ noise possible.
    • If they are crying loudly you might decide you can quickly do the swabs and get it out of the way.
    • If they won’t open their mouth – come back to it a short while later. Do something relaxing together and then try again.

    Don’t get into a battle but keep reassuring, be confident and gently assertive that it needs to be done.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

You can speak to other Norfolk parents and carers by clicking our online community forum below. 

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