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Assessment & testing of children

We want parents and children to understand when testing is required and to feel prepared when they come to our sites for a test. You may need to wait in line to receive the test and may wish to prepare toys or other activities to occupy your child while you wait. 

B.C. offers two COVID-19 testing options for children and youth. For the mouth rinse/gargle sample collection:

  • Do not eat, drink, brush teeth, or smoke/vape 1 hour prior to the test

  • Do not practicing gargling 2 hours prior to the test as practicing could affect test results

Below are some ways to explain to your child what COVID-19 is, why they need to be tested and what will happen during the test:

COVID-19 testing in children and youth is done by swishing and gargling sterile salt water and spitting it into a container, or by using a swab to collect a sample from their nose. Most school-aged children from kindergarten through to grade 12 who go to a COVID-19 test collection centre can do the mouth rinse and gargle sample. The nose swab is used for younger children or those who may not be able to follow the swish, gargle and spit instructions. Either test will accurately detect if your child has COVID-19. Watch a video about what you and your child can expect during a COVID-19 test. 

Watch: COVID-19 test with a mouth rinse and gargle sample for school-aged children

Practice the swish, gargle and spit technique with water at home before going to the collection centre. Wait at least two hours between practicing and doing the test as practicing could affect test results. Ask your child not to swallow the water or talk when they practice.

Watch: COVID-19 test with a nose swab

  • COVID-19 is a virus that is making some people sick. People who get this virus can have a fever, a cough and feel achy and tired.

  • We need to do a test to see if it's COVID-19 that is making you feel sick.

  • First, a nurse or health-care staff will put on a mask, an eye shield and gown.

  • For the test, you might sit on your mom or dad's lap, unless you're a big kid. Then you might sit on your own.

  • You may also be seated in your car to take the test at our drive-thru test collection sites.

  • Watch this video on the mouth rinse and gargle sample for school-aged children. Practice the swish, gargle and spit technique with water at home before going to the collection centre. Wait at least two hours between practicing and doing the test as practicing could affect test results. Ask your child not to swallow the water or talk when they practice.

  • For the COVID-19 nose swab test, please watch this video to find out what happens during a children's nose swab test.

  • Mom, dad or another grown up may need to help you keep still during your test.

  • You might want to plan what you want to do with your hands. Some kids like to hold their favourite toy or you might want to hold your parent's hand.

  • Having the test doesn't mean you have the virus.

  • Mom, dad or another grown-up will be called later with the test results.

Q&A for parents/guardians

Below are answers to frequently asked questions for parents/guardians whose children may require COVID-19 testing:

Parents and caregivers should assess their child daily for key symptoms of illness before sending them to school. Appendix C of the Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools provides an example of a daily health check.

If your child has one symptom that persists for more than 24 hours, a fever, or two or more symptoms from the list, they should be assessed to determine if they should seek testing for COVID-19. You can use K-12 health-checker app to determine if your child can attend school or if they need to self-isolate and contact 811 to be screened for COVID-19. You can use the COVID-19 assessment tool to determine if your child should seek testing.

If a child has any symptoms of a cold, influenza, COVID-19, or any other infectious respiratory disease, they should not go to school or child care. If you or another member the family has symptoms they should also not enter the school or child care facility.

Children experiencing seasonal allergies or other symptoms like a runny nose that are related to an existing condition can continue to attend school or child care as normal when they are experiencing these symptoms.

‎Please seek immediate medical attention at your local emergency or by calling 911 if the child has serious, life-threatening symptoms.

Children may be assessed and tested at our VCH assessment sites, urgent and primary care centres, local hospital emergency departments or B.C. Children’s Hospital.

For a list of addresses, locations and what tests are available for children visit the COVID-19 testing page: 

View list of VCH assessment centres, test collection centres and UPCC's

For a more detailed list of testing sites, you can call 8-1-1 or visit the COVID-19 collection centre finder website.


If your child was tested for COVID-19, the child should remain home to self-isolate until the results are provided to you. This means you should go directly home after their test. Your child should stay home from school and not see visitors. Visit the self-isolation page for details.

Your child can stop isolating and return to school if they test negative and their symptoms are gone - unless they have been asked by public health to continue to self-isolate. This might happen if your child has been exposed to someone with COVID-19. If your child tests positive, public health will provide instructions on when they can end isolation. You can expect to know your child's results in about 48 hours. 


You may need to self-isolate if a child in your household tests positive for the virus. Public health will follow-up with you if your child tests positive and will provide you with instructions.


If the result of your child’s test is negative, they can return to school as soon as they feel well enough to do so, even if their symptoms are not fully resolved. 


‎No, parents or other adults in close contact with the child should only be tested if they are symptomatic. Visit our COVID-19 testing page to access information for adults.

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