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For people with Down syndrome, family members, caregivers and professionals.

Helping an Individual with Down Syndrome Tolerate COVID-19 Testing

May 2020 | Adult Down Syndrome Center - Resource List

*Please note: this article discusses viral testing used to diagnose if an individual currently has COVID-19. This article does not discuss antibody testing used to determine if an individual was exposed to COVID-19 previously and developed some level of immunity to COVID-19. 

A common method to test for COVID-19 is to use a long swab to collect a specimen from the nasopharyngeal region, which is located at the back of the inside of the nose. diagram of person getting nasopharyngeal swab

While the procedure is not painful, it can be uncomfortable and upsetting for some individuals. The resources shared below can be used to prepare an individual for the test and help them better tolerate the test. 

Videos Demonstrating the Nasopharyngeal Swab

  • The video at this link provides a clinical demonstration of the nasopharyngeal swab. It was developed and shared by the New England Journal of Medicine

  • The video at this link was created by the Mayo Clinic to explain the procedure to children. It provides an accessible explanation with helpful tips. The description of the test starts at 01:15. 

Other Resources

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared a social story, an interactive social story, and a video for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities about getting a COVID-19 test.

  • The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh shared this article called "Preparing Your Child for Drive-Through COVID-19 Testing." It recommends using coping techniques such as listening to soft music, counting, and deep breathing during the test. It also suggests having a favorite item to hold on to during the test and a cold beverage to drink after the test. 

  • The Down Syndrome Resource Foundation shared this handout called "Preparing Your Loved One for a COVID Test." 

  • In the Q&A portion of a webinar hosted by the Matthew Foundation, Dr. Noemi Spinazzi, the Medical Director of the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Down Syndrome Clinic, shared the following tips: 

    • Describe the test prior to giving it in order to prepare the individual. Dr. Spinazzi tells individuals that she will put a swab in their nose, and it may feel "tickly and irritating" and "it makes you want to sneeze or cough." 

    • Dr. Spinazzi recommends having the individual lie down and putting something above the individual to focus on. Someone can stand above the individual and support their head and keep them distracted. Then, tell the patient that "this might not feel good, but it will be over quickly." 

    • The full webinar can be viewed at this link.


To see all our resources on COVID-19, please visit this link.

Please note: The information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as a substitute for a medical, psychiatric, mental health, or behavioral evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment plan by a qualified professional. We recommend you review the educational material with your health providers regarding the specifics of your health care needs.