PCR for Worried Kids: Where, Why, How Much

PCR swabs are now a standard part of our lives, but for many children they can be a frightening ordeal. We talked to one UAE family doctor about how to support nervous children through a PCR test, and take a look at the alternatives that are on offer across the UAE.
This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19
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This article is part of an editorial series on Covid-19

Children and adults across the UAE can now count PCR testing as part of their regular health care routine. That said, for many children, throat and nasal swabs are uncomfortable and often frightening. How then can parents support their child, especially if PCR testing is to become a frequent part of school life, international travel and attendance at public events?

What is a PCR test?

A Polymerase Chain Reaction test detects the presence of genetic material from a specific organism, such as the Covid-19 virus.  PCR tests are both accurate and reliable and are therefore considered the gold standard for detecting positive cases of Covid-19.

Why does my child need a PCR test to go to school?

The answer to this question depends on the emirate in which you reside. In Abu Dhabi, education governing body ADEK, recently announced that PCR tests for students, educators and school staff will be administered on site at the emirate’s schools. Abu Dhabi regulations require weekly PCR tests for unvaccinated students over the age of 12, as well as monthly tests for under 12s and those over the age of 12 who have been vaccinated for Covid-19.

In Dubai, PCR testing requirements are linked to international travel or, of course, if the child develops symptoms of Covid-19. In the case of international travel, a test is needed if the child has returned within 10 days of school re-entry date. This applies only to children aged 12 and over.

Parents of children in the other UAE emirates are advised to contact their school for guidance as to PCR testing requirements for school re-entry.

What happens if my child is scared to take a PCR test?

First of all, exemptions to the above rules and regulations are possible, though rare. Applications for exemptions must be made via the UAE Department of Health. All Children of Determination are exempt from PCR testing requirements.

We spoke with Dr. Umool Berkath Gangoli of Symbiosis Medical Centre in Dubai Silicon Oasis about PCR tests for children and how the UAE’s approach differs to other parts of the world.

“There is no alternative to a PCR test if we need to confirm Covid-19 for a symptomatic person, whatever the age. For adults, PCR tests can be either swabs or blood tests, and for children under the age of 10 we can test with either a nasal swab or a saliva [throat swab] test. PCR test results are valid for international travel, as well school re-entry, unless the child then presents with symptoms of Covid19.

“In the UK students take home tests twice a week. These are called lateral flow tests. School children do this themselves at home and upload their results on the National Health Service app. Unfortunately, lateral flow tests are not yet available in UAE”.

Dr Gangoli had the following advice for parents of children who were nervous of PCR testing,

“First all, it is the parents own stress and anxiety that needs to be taken care of! If that is ok, then we usually find that the rest will go smoothly. I suggest that parents should prepare their child in advance by sharing child-friendly information. At Symbiosis we advise parents to;

  • build their child’s confidence and remove fear. Reassure your child that it is not going to harm them
  • give examples, it’s just a like the feel of cotton bud, a gentle tickle and within a count of 10…it’s done!
  • explain the procedure beforehand, head tilts up, close eyes, breathe in and count to 10 in your mind. Then it is done! So easy!
  • after the procedure, parents should praise this big, brave step and give their child a small treat!”

For parents of children (under 10) who prefer to have a Saliva [throat swab] PCR test, rather than a swab, these can be found in both private and public sector clinics.

Where to get a Saliva PCR Test in Abu Dhabi

  • G42 healthcare centres
  • Seha drive-through screening centres

Where to get a Saliva PCR Test in Dubai

  • The Dubai Health Authority test centres. Book on the DHA app, or by calling 800 342
  • DHA test centres in the Mall of the Emirates and Deira City Centre (walk in tests)
  • Fakeeh University Hospital, Dubai Silicon Oasis
  • Medcare facilties: Medcare Hospital Al Safa, Medcare Women and Children’s Hospital, Medcare Mirdif City Centre, Medcare Uptown Mirdif, Medcare Al Rashidiya
  • The Mediclinic Hospitals – City Hospital in Healthcare City, Welcare Hospital in Garhoud and Parkview Hospital (Umm Suqeim street)
  • Mediclinic branches - Dubai Mall, Arabian Ranches, Meadows, Ibn Battuta, Al Qusais, Mirdiff, The Springs and Deira

How much will a PCR test cost?

Last month, the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) announced that the price of PCR tests has been fixed at 50 AED across the country. 

Keen to connect with other parents in the UAE to discuss topics like this one and more? Why not join our busy and supportive Facebook group, PARENTS UNITED UAE!

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