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To test for COVID or not

Alderfox profile image

My son had an asthma attack at school today. He has cough variant asthma so his attacks present as a “continuous cough”. His cough stopped when they finally gave him his inhaler (half an hour later). School wants us to take him for a COVID test Or they won’t let him return. GP surgery have said he doesn’t need one as it’s not a “new” cough. The asthma nurse has spoken to the school & they’re sticking with wanting a test. I don’t know whether to placate the school & take him for a test or escalate the fact they’re ignoring the GP surgery & adding to the unnecessary increase in testing. My sons is 4, this will be his second test this month. He was terrified, screaming & crying for the first one. Any advice?

19 Replies

This is a real difficult one. Phone the school and letting them know. Firstly it's not acceptable to make your son wait 30 mins for his inhaler. Then secondly they are going against medical advice. You can explain he has had one done and when and the trauma that caused. Obviously that will be out of date. You can understand their issue (tongue in cheek) ,

Now if it's a good school parents have to play by the rules. Hence why it's a difficult one. However I'm always one for explaining my point. This won't be the first or last time. He can't keep having tests just because they say surely?

Might be an idea to get a written doctors letter of how he presents with symptoms.

Alderfox profile image
Alderfox in reply to Blue-Breeze

I’ve told them about his first test & how awful it was. The asthma nurse has also contacted the school & told them directly that he doesn’t need a test, but they’re adamant.

They only gave him his inhaler after I said we’ll come get him but give him his inhaler, he’s having an asthma attack.

I can’t put him through a whole winter of this! He’s only 4!

Blue-Breeze profile image
Blue-Breeze in reply to Alderfox

It seems to me they're not taking his asthma serious enough in the first place. That alone needs addressing. If you had to say you were going to the school to get him before they would administer then that's out of order. Poor son and he must have been struggling too. It's frightening enough without anyone helping.

I'd call the school tell them your writing to them to set up a meeting. All the best.

Alderfox profile image
Alderfox in reply to Blue-Breeze

They only administered it because I asked if he’d had it because he was clearly having an asthma attack. Definitely not being taken seriously enough!

Thank you for your advice

Lorcas_15 profile image
Lorcas_15 in reply to Alderfox

I think it is unacceptable that the school would not provide his inhaler until a half hour had passed and would expect a four year old to go through another distressing test . The GP needs to write a letter to the school (with a copy to you) as previously suggested and I really hope this solves the problem for your little boy

Hi Alderfox,

I don’t know how you are going to resolve your current situation.

However, I do find the school’s lack of recognition that your son needed his inhaler quite disconcerting.

Children with health conditions can have a individual health plan.

In my old school, these were sometimes drawn up by the school nurse, although this tended to be more complex problems. Where necessary, they also provided in service training. Maybe your school nurse could assist you in the test or not test conundrum.

At the very least your child should be on the school’s medical register, and as the staff do not recognise his asthma symptoms, I might be inclined to insist that an individualised health plan is put in place.

This all might sound a bit pushy, but in my experience headteachers tend to be wary of parents who know their rights.

You might find the following of interest.



Alderfox profile image
Alderfox in reply to Troilus

Thank you so much for this information. I’ll have a read & talk to them again Monday. An individualised health plan might be the way to go.

The GP surgery spoke to the school nurse today & the headteacher has said they still want him tested. I can’t understand why they’re ignoring medical advice in favour of council guidelines

Troilus profile image
Troilus in reply to Alderfox

Fear, Alderfox. Fear of an outbreak at the school where the HT will find himself in deep, deep trouble with the local authority, the governors, the parents and possibly the press for not following the correct procedures.

Headteacher are no longer the autonomous creatures they used to be. So many policies and procedures these days........

But, policies and procedures say you child should be given his inhaler immediately. Somebody, somewhere, has been negligent.......delaying emergency treatment. What would have happened if they had been unable to contact you?

Troilus profile image
Troilus in reply to Troilus

Back again 😁 I have had a bit more think on this. ( When I read your post yesterday, the thing that struck me most was the inhaler business. )

On reflection, even though it is distressing for him ( to say the least) I think at the end of the day, you will probably have to ask for a test.

With my sensible head on, the headteacher has a duty of care to the other children in his school and to his staff.

Yes, you could withdraw your child from the school for the usual isolation period and hopefully everything would be ok. The only problem I see there, is ,should there be a case of coronavirus in the school ( brought in by another child ) the jungle gossips would blame you and your son. There can be some quite malicious talk amongst parents, often based on rumour, and some teachers do gossip, not supposed to, but they do.

I think your only hope is that the testing service refuse a test. A long shot, but you never know.

This is a really difficult situation for both you, your child and for the school.

Troilus is correct about the position the school is in and this must be accepted as we are in extraordinary times.

However, any good school will put what is best for your child and what is best for ALL the children, first, in situations like this.

Firstly, your child's inhaler must be available to him at all times. The school must work out a system that enables this. Even at 4 years old, he will know himself when he needs it and it must be there for him.

A meeting with the Headteacher along with a medical professional, may be a way forward at this stage. Perhaps the Asthma Nurse or School Nurse. (It is part of the School Nurse's roll to liaise. )

And/or a letter from your doctor.

It is a sad fact that a paper trail is needed by schools in situations like this to provide evidence for 'difficult decisions.'

The school has an obligation and a desire to provide the best care for ALL children and must be acutely aware that allowing any possible signs of covid into their school would be a mistake.

Hoping this helps and you find a way forward that helps your little one....


This school MUST be put through asthma training ASAP. They would then be informed of the cases where a failure to provide the inhaler had tragic consequences.

Their policies around asthma, EpiPens and other medications need to be reviewed.

Aim your complaints at the governors and in writing rather than over the phone.

Covid is not an excuse for ignoring this issue.

Even if you placate the school now, all it takes is another asthma attack and they could be asking for a test again.

It's a very difficult situation.

Q: Would an inhaler relieve a covid cough? If the answer is no then perhaps that's a way for the school to differentiate.

EmmaF91 profile image
EmmaF91Community Ambassador

Hi Alderfox

Not much to add to what the others have said. It sucks but atm I think there are going to be a lot of kids having unnecessary Covid swabs cause of ‘new school policy’. If it helps a lot of areas are trying out less invasive testing swabs. (Had a few due to asthma admissions... my last one was more like an MRSA swab than a flu swab, whereas my first was worse than a flu swab).

The other thing is, does your son have an asthma action plan? If not I strongly advice getting him one so a) the school have a plan to follow and b) so they can’t turn round and say ‘we didn’t know’ if he has another asthma attack. If they already have one for him then it’s worth reminding them if their policies about caring for those with medical conditions. Not thinking of giving an inhaler to a known asthmatic who is coughing, is like not giving an epi-pen to a known person with an allergy who is heading in to anaphylaxis or not giving a diabetic insulin when their sugars are too high....

Hopefully there will be a compromise but until the school learns to cope with their asthmatics this will probably be a reoccurring thing unfortunately...

Good luck with what you decide to do and let your son know how awesome he is!

How awful for you especially with one so young. I know our 6 year old granddaughter had to be held down for her latest COVID test- her 4th. They’re not nice

Having worked in a primary school for 40 years the school sounds like its policies need updating. Inhalers EpiPens etc should be readily available for use the minute they are needed. We kept them in our classrooms( inhalers) in a special place. Children were allowed to get them when coughing so long as they told an adult in the room and one so young would be supervised.

Imagine if your son had a really bad attack

I’d suggest a meeting with the head / governors.

Yes school will be very aware of COVID but an asthmatic surely a puff on an inhaler then see what happens. Xx Anita

I too am sorry you and your son both are going through this. Personally I would stick to your guns and get very formal and tough. They have failed your son twice in one go. The asthma plan is of the utmost importance and staff training. I would say not to return your son until they can confirm the plan and training have been carried out. They are failing to provide your son a safe environment. As this is not a new continuous cough...does the covid cough have to last hours or days to be assessed as new and continuous...they are also failing to follow the covid rules themselves. Half an hour of coughing resolved by the inhaler is neither new nor continuous.

If they dont respond quickly and positively then maybe you need to find a school that can look after children with asthma. Stay firm, formal and strong. You tell them their failures are disappointing but can be rectified! Good luck and I hope your son stays well and happy.

I read somewhere recently that a covid cough doesn't stop with an inhaler. From asthma uk's website "Your inhaler only works against symptoms caused by asthma." His cough stopped when he was finally allowed to take his inhaler, therefore it was an asthma cough. That school is not fit to look after children. My asthma got tricky a few weeks ago & if I'd had to have a test each time I had a coughing fit, no-one else would have got to the head of the queue. The little lad is only 4 so I would change his school to a more caring one.

I so sorry you had to go through all that with the school, but mostly feel sorry for your son because he is just 4 years old. To me i feel it's just too extreme, they're taking things too far with this COVID & asthma issue. I was also told to do COVID test apart from taking medications in a hospital i used for the first time. I noticed all the questions i was asked were related to COVID whilst ignoring the fact i could have an underlying condition (asthma). Just because i was coughing for weeks, had trouble breathing right from my throat, was weak, having chest pain, it was concluded that i should go for the test. Yes, i get the fact that COVID can be similar to asthma, but then they are still not the same thing. When i told the doctors i normally use, they both asked me to ignore doing the test because they felt it wasn't a new development but something i have dealt with in the past. It might seem to be that you will have to stand your ground for the school to listen to your son's asthma nurse or you have to enrol him else where because for an inhaler to be administered to him after a long while, it's a threat to him & risky, what if anything happened to him, what will they have said to you. For adults, when they have attacks, it can be frightening not to talk of a 4years old child. And then even the COVID test as well can be traumatic for adults, talkless of a child.

Situation so annoying but get an appointment with class teacher and head teacher, explain to them how your sons asthma presents. Does he have a particular sounding cough, ie is it barking, dry sounding, or does he have any other behaviour changes to watch out for. They also need to ensure that give him the inhaler as soon as possible. The other thing here to point out is that cough stopped once had had inhaler, so definitely asthma. Also did he present with any other symptoms doesn’t seem so. Hope all goes well.

Also need to think about and advise what sons triggers are, bearing in mind that colds and viruses can exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Thank you everyone for your support & advice. I spoke to NHS 24’s Covid team & they said my son doesn’t meet the criteria for testing because it’s not a new nor continuous cough. It’s an existing chronic cough. My GP wrote a letter to the school stating that & they’ve accepted him back.

They’ve also emailed forms out to the entire school for updating medical, contact & consent files, so silver lining. Let’s hope it was an oversight due to panic & wont happen again. I’m still very upset that my boy was put through that unnecessarily but I’m glad I was able to advocate for him & didn’t make him be tested for an easy life.

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