Antigen tests for children

This advice applies to children age 4 or older who are in early years (pre-school), childcare or primary school.

There is different advice for children age 4 or older who have symptoms of COVID-19.

You'll be offered free antigen tests for your child if there:

  • is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in their pod
  • are 2 or more confirmed cases in their group or class in different pods within a 7-day period

A confirmed case is when someone has a positive PCR or antigen test result.

Your child can still go to school or childcare as long as they do not have symptoms of COVID-19. You will have to tell the school or childcare service if your child has a positive antigen test result.

They will need to send a letter to the parents of the other children in the pod to order antigen tests. They will tell the parents of children in your child's pod that there is a confirmed case of COVID-19. But they have been asked not to give any details about the child.

If your child has symptoms

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19:

Book a COVID-19 PCR test if your child is under 4 years of age and has symptoms of COVID-19.

If your child is age 4 or older, continue to do regular antigen tests. If their test results are negative, continue to isolate them until they've had no symptoms for 48 hours.

Ordering antigen tests if your child is a close contact in school

Free antigen tests are not available to all children.

You must have a message from your child's principal or the manager of the childcare or early years service before you can order free antigen tests.

The message contains the details you need and the freephone number to call to order the tests.

When you call, you give an address to send the tests to. You should get your tests through the post in 2 or 3 business days.

If you do not receive the tests, contact the Primary School and Childcare Facility Antigen Request Team. The freephone number is in the message you first received.

If your child has symptoms of COVID-19

Read our get tested page to find out what type of test your child should get if they have symptoms of COVID-19

How many antigen tests to do

Antigen testing is more accurate if you do a series of tests on different days.

Your child will need to do 3 antigen tests in total. You can do them at any time of the day. There are 2 spare tests in the box if you need them.

Your child can still go to school or childcare while they are doing the series of antigen tests as long as:

  • they do not have symptoms of COVID-19
  • their antigen test results are negative

Other people in your household do not have to restrict their movements (stay at home) as long as they do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

When to do the antigen tests

Do the 3 antigen tests in this order:

  1. First test on the day you get the tests.
  2. Second test 2 days after the first test.
  3. Third test 2 days after the second test.

How to do an antigen test with your child

To do the antigen test you use a swab to take a sample from your child's nose.

When you have finished with an antigen test, put it in a plastic bag and put the bag in your bin.

Read step-by-step advice on how to do an antigen test

Watch a video on doing an antigen test with a child:

Antigen test results

The test will show the result in about 15 minutes. The results are quicker than a PCR test because the sample does not need to go to a lab.

There are 3 types of antigen test results:

  • Positive (detected)
  • Negative (not detected)
  • Invalid

You will have to tell the school or childcare service if your child has a positive antigen test result.

Positive antigen test results

If any of your child's antigen tests are positive, they need to stay at home and avoid contact with other people.

Information:

If your child gets a positive antigen test result, tell the principal of their school or the manager of their childcare or early years service.

They will tell the parents of children in your child's pod that there is a confirmed case of COVID-19. But they have been asked not to give any details about the child.

Read what you and other people in your household need to do

Negative antigen test results

Do all 3 tests with your child, even if 1 of the tests is negative.

Your child can still go to school or childcare if they do not have symptoms of COVID-19.

You can provide the results to the HSE if you want.

To do this you can report the negative antigen results online.

We’ll use the information to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue to follow the advice on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

Invalid antigen test result

An invalid test means the test did not return a positive or negative result. If any of your child's antigen tests are invalid, use a spare test.

Read information about close contacts for adults

Read what to do if your child is a close contact outside of school

Last updated: 14 January 2022 at 9am

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