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COVID-19 Testing for Children and Youth

B.C. offers two options for COVID-19 testing in children and youth. Find information about the process and what to expect here.

Dépistage de la COVID-19 pour les enfants et les jeunes
Prueba de COVID-19 para niños y jóvenes 

ASL: COVID-19 Testing for Children and Youth

When to take your child for a test

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 the COVID-19 assessment tool to determine if your child should seek testing.

Testing is available for anyone with cold, influenza or COVID-19-like symptoms

How to prepare for the test

COVID-19 testing in children and youth is done by swishing and gargling sterile salt water and spitting it into a tube, 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 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 salty 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. 

See the instructions on how to make saline at home to practice the swish/gargle method

How to make salty water for practice
Mix ½ teaspoon (2.5mL) of salt in 1 cup of warm water to dissolve and cool to room temperature. 

Information for areas with water advisories

If you live in an area with a Boil Water Advisory, boil water for at least one minute and then add the salt and allow to cool to make the salt water. If you live in an area with a Do Not Consume or Do Not Use Advisory, use bottled water to make the salty water solution for practicing.

Your child should not eat, drink (even water), chew gum, brush teeth, vape or smoke for at least one hour before the mouth rinse and gargle test. This might affect the amount of virus that is in their mouth, which can affect the results of the test.  

Watch: COVID-19 test with a nose swab

Find a collection centre where your child can be tested

Use the collection centre finder or call 8-1-1 to find the nearest centre:

When you go for the test

ASL: COVID-19 Testing for Children and Youth - Instructions for Younger Children


ASL: COVID-19 Testing for Children and Youth - Instructions for Older Children and Youth



Your child will need to self-isolate after their test. This means you should go directly home after their test. Your child should stay home from school and not see visitors. Learn more about self-isolating after a test.

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. 

Accessing and understanding test results

These are some of the ways you can access test results:
  • Sign up for text message results after you bring your child to a COVID-19 collection centre. Visit the Test Results page and complete the form.
  • Contact the BCCDC COVID-19 negative results line at 1-833-707-2792 to get results on your child’s behalf but wait at least 48 hours before calling to make sure the results are available. 
  • My ehealth is a fast and secure method to receive test results for those 16 years or older.
  • For residents of Island Health, call 1-866-370-8355.
  • For residents of Interior Health, use the My Health Portal.
If your child tests positive, you will be contacted by Public Health and provided instructions on what to do next. 

Your child’s test result could be:

Negative: A negative result is considered negative for COVID-19 unless (1) public health requests follow up testing OR (2) symptoms worsen requiring an assessment and potentially repeat testing.

Positive:  If your child tests positive for COVID-19, your child will need to stay home for a minimum of 10 days from when their symptoms started. You will be contacted by public health for follow up.

Indeterminate: Results do not provide a clear result for COVID-19 infection. You will be contacted by public health for follow up.

Sample invalid/rejected: Sample could not be tested (e.g. leaked sample, error in labelling/requisition). You will need to recollect another sample for testing.

When to seek medical attention

If symptoms get worse or new symptoms develop, contact your health care provider or call 8-1-1. 

Take your child to your nearest hospital Emergency or call 911 if your child:
  • Is having difficulty breathing
  • Has blue lips or skin, or appears very pale
  • Is coughing excessively, particularly with a fever
  • Is vomiting excessively, especially if there is blood in the vomit
  • Has diarrhea and vomiting and is not producing tears, and has not urinated for several hours
  • Has a high fever, appears very sleepy, and has not improved with acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)
  • Is under three months of age and has a fever of greater than 38 degrees C (100.4 degrees F).

SOURCE: COVID-19 Testing for Children and Youth ( )
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