Distraction techniques for COVID-19 swabbing

  • Strategies to support more comfortable COVID swabs vary with age

    Infants and toddlers

    • May benefit from comfort positioning
    • Can be seated on a parent’s lap, facing the person taking the swab
    • Demonstration on parents is generally not useful at this age


    • May find it helpful to see the swab being " demonstrated " on a toy or a parent, so they are familiar with the equipment and process

    Children aged five and above

    • May find it helpful watching a video of another child having a swab (peer led modelling)
    • Visual schedule
      • A tool to help prepare children by providing a visual reference for each step
      • Helpful for children in general and those with neurodevelopment disability
      • Best used in combination with developmentally appropriate language and comfort positioning
      • Should be positioned so that the child can see it when the swab is being done
      • The child and caregiver can be encouraged to count to 10 at each point of the swab
    • Specific narrative distraction techniques - helpful for children who need repeat swabs and have anticipatory anxiety (see video below)
      • This technique engages the child’s imagination which is both distracting and empowering.  The child takes turns to 'turn off' the back of the mouth and the nostrils when the swab is done and to 'turn them back on' when it is finished
      • After engaging the child, introduce the idea of turning things on and off by talking about the light switch in their bedroom or the remote-control button that wakes up the TV. Introduce the idea that when things are 'off' they are fast asleep and not bothered by anything
      • Children will often find 'buttons' or 'switches' on themselves or inside their mind, or even on a toy

    Video - narrative distraction techniques for children aged five and above