Should you wipe your throat while taking a COVID rapid test at home?

key takeaways

  • Anecdotal reports suggest that swabs of the throat and nose can improve the accuracy of a quick COVID-19 test at home.
  • However, many U.S.-authorized home tests have not been studied using throat swabs.
  • Experts advise against wiping your throat. If you do, you should also collect a nasal swab.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise due to the current surge in Omicron variants, people are being tested more frequently to avoid inadvertently spreading the virus to others. However, many said the rapid at-home tests did not detect the Omicron variant very well, leading to false-negative test results.

Anecdotal reports of individuals testing negative with a nasal swab but testing positive with a combined throat and nasal swab have attracted a lot of attention on social media. The hashtag #SwabYourThroat went viral on Twitter, while some shared their experiences on TikTok, encouraging more to try throat swabs. It is claimed that the method helps make the Omicron variant easier to detect.

Throat and nose test kits are available in the UK, But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-authorized rapid antigen test kit does not require a throat swab.

Still, many people wonder if throat swabs should be part of our normal home testing routine. Very good to ask experts to weigh.

Does Omicron evade detection with current tests?

Is a throat swab better?

While some anecdotal reports encourage swabbing your throat, more research is needed to determine whether it actually improves the accuracy of your test.

“It’s really hard to say why this ‘could’ be true, and there are good reasons to question whether it’s true,” Sheldon Campbell, MD, a laboratory medicine physician at Yale University School of Medicine and a professor at Yale University School of Medicine, told VigorTip. “There’s a lot of bias in this kind of anecdote, because those who have a positive attitude [result] The nose doesn’t bother to do the throat, and people who have a negative on the nose and then a negative on the throat don’t tweet about it. ”

Preliminary studies suggest that antigen tests can detect the Omicron variant, but they may be less sensitive to it. Additionally, a recent study that is being peer-reviewed for publication found that Omicron replicates 70 times faster in the bronchi than Delta.

“There are some very preliminary cell culture-type data showing that Omicron replicates better in the upper airways than in the lower airways,” Campbell said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean the throat is better than the nose.”

what does this mean to you

According to FDA regulations, COVID-19 diagnostic tests should be used as authorized. If you are using a rapid home test kit, follow the directions on the package. If you’re going to wipe your throat anyway, make sure you at least wipe your nose as well.

Should you try wiping your throat?

“It’s not recommended,” Campbell said. “I must stress that no one has actually done scientific research on the nose and throat [swabs]. If you absolutely have to wipe your throat for lack of evidence, wipe it and your nose. Use the same cotton swab to test. Don’t waste very scarce tests on this nonsense. ”

Two weeks ago, a UCL cell biologist shared on Twitter that they had tested positive after taking samples from their nose and throat. They used the Flowflex COVID-19 antigen home test, which requires only a nasal swab.

“Don’t use your throat instead of your nose,” Campbell said. “It’s one thing to say ‘maybe the throat helps’ and add it, it’s another to decide that three tweet anecdotes means ignoring that we know the nose is a good type of specimen.”

Swabbing the throat and nose may help collect more viral load, thereby improving the chances of detecting the Omicron variant.

“A quick self-test by swabbing the throat and nose may improve test sensitivity,” Dr. Preeti Pancholi, director of clinical microbiology at The Ohio State University School of Medicine, told VigorTip. “Most viruses are found in the nasopharynx (nose) and oropharynx (the back of the mouth). Throat section), especially in people with a sore throat. But if the test instructions don’t say to wipe the throat, that means the test manufacturer and the FDA have not studied the test’s accuracy or effectiveness in this way.”

As calls for throat swab testing have grown on social media, the FDA took to Twitter to reiterate that the existing rapid antigen test is only authorized for nasal swabs.

“The FDA has ‘noted safety concerns regarding self-collection of throat swabs,’ which, if performed improperly, could harm patients. In addition, doing so could contaminate the specimen,” Pancholi said. “Self-collecting throat swabs is more complicated and should be collected by trained professionals when needed.”

The 9 Best Home COVID-19 Tests of 2022

So what should you do?

FDA recommends following instructions and collecting test samples as directed. If a rapid antigen test requires a nasal swab, it’s best not to do a swab in the back of the throat — at least until more data is available. Insufficient sample collection may result in false negatives.

“If I were to test myself or my family, I would only do a good, thorough nasal swab,” Campbell said. “I think it’s more important to wipe the juices down the nose thoroughly than possibly do the throat.”

If you want to avoid possible mistakes, opting for a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) diagnostic test, which is often more sensitive than a rapid antigen test, may be a safer option.

“In any case, regardless of the antigen test result, you should isolate for five days after developing symptoms,” Campbell said. “Right now, if you have symptoms, don’t go out with people. Whatever the coronavirus, this should be the rule going forward – don’t infect your friends.”

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means that you may have updated information as you read this article. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.