What Nova Scotians should know about getting kids tested for COVID-19

·4 min read

With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Nova Scotia, there are guidelines for parents and guardians around the testing options for children in their care.

Although many of the same procedures that apply to adults are also applicable to children, there are some differences.

Children between the age of four and 18 now have a more comfortable COVID-19 testing option with the rollout of a gargle test in Nova Scotia.

Swish-and-gargle testing is available at all COVID-19 primary assessment centres in the province.

It was approved for use in Nova Scotia in early October and a pilot program has been running at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax since Oct. 7.

A nose test will be administered to children under four and those unable to gargle salty water.

Parents and caregivers booking a test should allow at least an hour without food, drink or gum in case their child has gargle testing.

One parent or caregiver may attend during the testing but siblings are not allowed.

Gargle test

Nova Scotia Health released a video Thursday to go along with the rollout of the gargle test.

In the video, a young woman talks children through the steps required to take the test.

"It's really easy and it doesn't hurt," she says.

The video assures children that taking the test does not mean they have the virus.

A mask must be worn during the entire 15-minute process except when ingesting or expelling the test liquid.

The child is given a vial with "salty water" that they are to open and squeeze into their mouth by themselves, or with the help of a parent.

After putting their mask back on they must alternate between swishing it around in their mouth for five seconds and gargling for five seconds.

The swishing and gargling has to be repeated three times.

They will be provided with a container and must spit the liquid into it, which completes the test.

A joint news release from IWK Health and Nova Scotia Health said if a child has difficulty completing the test, it cannot be repeated that same day and they will have the option of rescheduling or having a nose-swab test.

To make the gargle test easier, parents and children are encouraged to practise the test at home using salty water but not within two hours of the actual test.

When to get tested

Parents should have their children or teens tested if they are told to do so by Public Health because of close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case or if they are referred for testing after taking the self-assessment test or by 811.

Parents may complete the self-assessment test for children in their household.

Test appointments can be booked online.

As with adults, children and teens must self-isolate if they:

  • are waiting for COVID-19 test results.

  • have tested positive for COVID-19.

  • have been identified as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, even if you have tested negative for COVID-19.

The province now requires all people living at the same residence to also self-isolate for 14 days.

At school

The possibility of potential exposure at school is a worry for many parents but there are protocols in place.

If a child shows symptoms of COVID-19 while at school, Nova Scotia's back-to-school plan outlines procedures to be followed.

The student will be instructed to wash their hands, provided with a mask and moved to a designated isolation area in the school.

The parent or guardian will be contacted by the school to pick them up and the student will be monitored in the meantime.

The parent or guardian will be advised to complete the online self-assessment or call 811.

If someone tests positive for COVID-19 at a school, NSHA Public Health will contact all their close contacts.

A close contact is anyone who has been within two metres of the person with COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more.

Close contacts will be advised by public health to arrange testing and will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

The plan says that Public Health will work with the school to let families know about the case and what they need to do.

Parents and guardians of pre-primary children are urged to monitor them using the pre-primary checklist before sending them to school.