Be Your Own Scientist!

Thank you for taking part in Growing Up in New Zealand's  'Be Your own Scientist'!  For this part of the study we're asking participants to collect three  samples that will be used to help understand more about some health conditions that affect children in Aotearoa-New Zealand. 

By taking part you automatically go in a monthly draw to monthly draw to win one of 50 x $50 gift vouchers. You can find out more about this prize draw here. 

Congratulations to the 10 winners of the April draw! 

We will send you a pack with everything you need to collect your samples, including detailed instructions.    You can also read these here:

Remember to read the information sheet carefully before starting so that you have everything you need to collect your samples.   You can also watch a video about how to get everything ready for collecting your samples here.

If you would like to read the instructions for collecting your samples in another language, here are versions in Te ReoSamoan, Tongan, Hindi and Mandarin. 

Check out the videos examples below for collecting each sample. 

Packing and sending your samples

1.    Stick the yellow biohazard sticker from your sticker sheet onto the biohazard bag (see image).
2.    Make sure that all three of the sample collection tubes are in the biohazard bag and seal it. 
3.    Put any packaging in the plastic waste bag provided and put in your rubbish bin.
4.    Complete any relevant sections of the Extra Information Sheet then place with the biohazard bag into the padded courier bag addressed to the University. Any unused swabs or stickers can also be put into the courier bag.
5.    Close and seal the courier bag.
6.    Keep the courier bag with the samples in a secure location until you can take your courier bag to your nearest NZ Post Shop or click here to book a pick up from you home or workplace.  This is a free service.    

Once you have collected your samples please keep them at room temperature until you are able to send them.  Please send your samples to us within ten days of collection so they can be prepared for storage and later use. 


Do you have any questions? 

If you want to know more about this part of the Growing Up in New Zealand study or need any help with any part of collecting or sending your samples, please  get in touch.   You can call us on: freephone 0508 476 946 (0508 GROWINGUP) or email us at: 

Below are some frequently asked questions.

Why are you collecting swab samples again? 

Certain illnesses are very common in New Zealand, especially amongst our children. These include illnesses we get through infections such as pneumonia, skin sores and sore throats. We do not understand why some children are more likely to become sick than other children. By undertaking this research, we believe we can understand some of the reasons why some illnesses occur more frequently in New Zealand children, as well as why some children get these illnesses and others do not. 


Why do you need three samples from the nose, throat and skin? 

We collect three swabs from each child, so that we can find out more about the microbiota (e.g. bacteria, viruses, fungi etc.) that normally live on the skin of children, how it differs between the sites and therefore may affect their health. Each site has been associated with different bacterial and illness which is why we collect samples from each area.  For example, some bacteria are more common in the throat, and different bacteria on the skin or in the nose. 


Is the nose swab like a PCR Covid-19 test? 

No. This swab is taken from just inside both nostrils and should not hurt or be uncomfortable. It may tickle a little. This swab is more like a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) that you may have used recently. 


Will the swabs hurt? 

None of the swabs should hurt, we will give you all the instructions you need to take these swabs and we only ask you gently rub the swabs across the three sites for the time we specify. 


Is it safe for me or a caregiver to take the swabs? 

The new swab kits are a lot like the previous ones we used but these kits have been designed to be used in the home by non-medical or trained interviewers/nurses. They are safe to collect and have in your home until you send them back to us. 


Is it difficult to take the swabs? 

These swabs are easy to take and the kit is easy to use. You will be given clear instructions and a link to videos and other images to view. You will also be given all the equipment you need to take them. 


Is it safe to send the swabs in the mail? 

These kits have been designed and tested so that when you put the swab into the tube the liquid inside will neutralise any bacteria or viruses on the swab. Therefore even if you child had some infectious bacteria or a virus it would be safe inside the collection tube to send in the mail. 


Will this cost me anything to do or send the swabs back to University? 

It will not cost you anything. You will be sent the kits and equipment and a pre-paid pre-addressed courier bag to send the swabs back to us at University. 


How long do I have to take the swabs and send them back to you? 

We would like you to do the swabs as close to the time we send them to you as possible. Once you have taken the swabs and packed them into the courier bag we need them back ideally within 10 days so we can get them ready for storage and analysis. Longer than 30 days after they have been taken may impact the quality of the swabs and the results we find. 


Do they have to be kept somewhere cold? 

No. These swabs are stable at room temperature and are pretty tolerant of high summer and low winter temperatures. Once you have taken the swabs and packed them into the courier bag you can simply keep them somewhere safe and when convenient for you, drop the parcel at your nearest NZ Post store or arrange a courier to come and collect the parcel.  This is a free service and will not cost you anything.  ( 


Are these swabs or the data you get from them able to identify my child? 

At Growing Up in New Zealand we take you and your child’s privacy very seriously. We will use non-identifying stickers on the swabs so that there is no way for your child to be identified. We use an ID number and a barcode to keep track of the results and all data from these swabs is kept anonymous. 


Are you going to also be able to collect my child’s DNA on these swabs? Can this be analysed now or in the future? 

The swabs we are using are designed to collect and extract microbial (bacteria and virus) DNA and RNA. If we were going to collect human DNA for use in research now or in the future we would need to get your consent to collect this (e.g., a saliva sample as was done at the four and eight year interviews). The swabs will inevitably capture human skin cells and white blood cells as these are from swabbing skin sites so the samples will contain human DNA but as these samples will be used to profile the microbiome only rather than human genetics.  This DNA will not be used in any analyses without your consent. 


How are you going to use the results you get from these swab samples? 

These swabs are going to be able to help us figure out some really important research questions like: 

1.    how does having certain bacteria present (like Staphylococcus aureus) change across the three swab sites in children with a history of eczema? 

2.    how does the throat microbial diversity look different in children who have had throat (Strep) infections? 

3.    how does throat, nose and skin bacteria diversity change with antibiotic prescription history? 

4.    what bacteria (like Staphylococcus aureus) are found together when a skin infection occurs in twelve-year old children? 


Can I get my child’s results from the swabs back? 

These are not diagnostic swabs like you doctor or nurse might take, they are specifically for research and as we keep all the results anonymous you cannot get your individual child’s results back. 


If my child has a sore throat can you still do the throat swab? 

Yes. As long as it is not painful you can take the swab. You can make a note of their sore throat on the Extra Information Sheet we will give you with the swabs. If you are worried about their health then please take them to see their GP or a health provider. 


What if I touch the tonsils, cheeks, gums or teeth with the swab when collecting the throat sample? 

Try not to let the swab touch other areas but if a little contact occurs – i.e., if your child moves – don’t worry - continue as normal. Please just let us know in the Extra Information Sheet. 


Why do you want to know if my child currently has or has had Covid-19? 

As Covid-19 is such a new virus in New Zealand, we don’t know how or if it has an effect on the other microbiota (bacteria, viruses, and fungi etc.) that commonly live on us. If we know whether your child has experienced this virus and how long ago we can potentially use this information in our analyses to help understand whether there is any effect of Covid-19 on the other microbiota we are interested in. 


What if I consent and my child agrees but later we change our mind and don’t want to take or send the swabs back. 

If you or your child do not want to take part in this part of the study then you may change your mind at any time. You can either send the unused swabs back to us in the courier bag or if you used them then simply place them in your outside bin for rubbish collection. If you send the swabs back and we use them for research you can still change your mind and we can destroy the stored swabs and delete the data at a later date if you want. These swabs and the data we get from them are treated with the utmost respect and we really appreciate all the time and effort you will put in collecting them for us. 

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