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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Getting Tested at a Drive-Thru Testing Site

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD

What Is a Drive-Thru Testing Site?

A drive-thru testing site is a place where parents and children stay in their car while a health care provider does a test.

How Can We Get COVID-19 Testing at a Drive-Thru Testing Location?

If a health care provider ordered coronavirus (COVID-19) testing, ask if you can have it done at a drive-thru testing area. Then, check for a location near you. Many drive-thru sites do testing by appointment only.

Can I Use a Drive-Thru Testing Site if I Don't Have a Car?

If you don't have access to a car, ask your health care provider about using public transportation. Some drive-thru testing sites are set up for patients who travel on public transportation. The office staff will have details on how to do this.

If you don't have access to a car or public transportation, ask your health care provider about other ways to get COVID-19 testing.

What Should I Bring to the Drive-Thru Testing?

Ask your health care provider if you need to bring a paper prescription for the test. Sometimes doctors send the prescription by fax or computer to the drive-thru location ahead of time.

For young kids, it can help to bring a favorite toy, a blanket, stuffed animal, or a doll. If your child is older, have them bring a book, school assignment, or their phone.

How Can I Prepare My Child for the Testing?

Ahead of time, tell kids what's going to happen at the testing site. And let them know that the doctors and nurses will be wearing gowns, gloves, glasses, and masks. Explain that wearing these protective coverings helps keep everyone safe.

What Will Happen at the Testing Location?

People working at the site will direct you to the car line. You'll keep your car windows closed until you're told to open them. A health care provider will check your prescription and may ask a few questions.

After checking in, you might have to wait for the testing. Drive-thru testing places can be busy, so plan for a delay. It's helpful to have things to occupy your child's time while waiting.

How Can I Help My Child During the Test?

If you can, sit next to your child and hold their hand or rub their arm while you talk with them. If you can't sit next to your child, reach out and touch them. Sing a favorite song, show a short video, read a special book. If your child is old enough, do deep-breathing exercises together.

How Do Health Care Providers Do the COVID-19 Test?

Health care providers get secretions from the back of the nose to test for coronavirus (COVID-19). To do that:

  • Your child will lean their head back.
  • The health care provider will gently put a long Q-tip swab into your child's nose to take a sample. It's very important to get the sample from the right place.

Some drive-thru sites may offer self-swab testing (the person puts the swab in their nose with directions from the health care team).

Other types of testing are being studied. Ask your doctor for updates.

Is the Test Uncomfortable?

Having a swab placed in the back of the nose is uncomfortable while it's happening. You can soothe your child during the testing by distracting them, talking quietly, or singing to them.

When Will We Get the Test Results?

Your health care provider will let you know when the results are ready. The timing can vary depending on where the testing was done.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: June 2020