Kid-friendly ‘saline gargle’ test for COVID-19 available at Sechelt clinic

Tests generally aren’t considered fun school activities but COVID-19 has brought that discomfort to a whole new level.

Nicknamed “the brain biopsy,” a traditional COVID-19 test involves sticking a nasopharyngeal swab into the nose to the back of the throat and then twisting. “[When] kids have had it once, they don’t want to have it again,” said medical health officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn during a Sept. 24 virtual town hall meeting for School District No. 46 (SD46) families.

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Thankfully, relief has arrived on the Sunshine Coast.

Following the town hall, Dr. Daren Spithoff, a COVID-19 Task Force physician, confirmed with Coast Reporter a new “saline gargle” is available for children at the respiratory assessment clinic in Sechelt.

With the new test, children swish around a vial’s worth of saline solution in their mouth and spit it back into the tube for testing. “It has similar sensitivity to the nasopharyngeal swab,” said Lysyshyn, who on Thursday announced to SD46 families the new sample type was now being used widely at testing sites. “We think it’s much more palatable for kids.”

The need for more palatable testing was identified because children will likely have to be tested several times throughout the year.

At the town hall meeting Lysyshyn also notified parents of recent changes to COVID-19 screening for children.

If they develop “key symptoms” such as fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhoea, children should be kept home, said Lysyshyn, and if symptoms persist for 24 hours or one of the symptoms is fever then a child should be tested.

Before, milder symptoms such as runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing were included as criteria. “We’ve tried to introduce a more focused list that would mean that kids won’t have to be out of school as much,” Lysyshyn said.  

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