How to test yourself for covid-19?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against the use of throat swabs for covid-19 tests performed at home and says that people should use the tests according to instructions.
"FACT: When it comes to home rapid # COVID19 antigen tests, those swabs are for the nose and not the throat," he said on Twitter on Friday.
FACT: When it comes to at-home rapid antigen # COVID19 tests, those swabs are for your nose and not your throat.
- US FDA (@US_FDA) January 7, 2022
Why the warning?
After anecdotal reports of the presence of sore throats caused by coronavirus infection and the first studies suggesting that saliva may be better at detecting the omicron variant, some people began using antigen test swabs, intended for samples nasal, to rub the throat.
The correction came after people started posting their results on social media with the hashtag #SwabYourThroat.
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what is the difference?
Throat swabs are common in some places. In the UK, the National Health Service notes that some rapid tests for people without COVID-19 symptoms may require both a nasal swab and a throat swab. But in the US, most self-tests require nasal swabs; some involve saliva collected by spitting into a tube.
"The FDA cautions that covid-19 tests should be used as authorized, including following the instructions for use on obtaining the sample for testing," an FDA spokesperson told CNN this week.
"The FDA has noted safety concerns regarding self-collection of throat swabs, which are more complicated than nasal swabs and, if used incorrectly, can cause harm to the patient. The CDC recommends that throat swabs be collected by a trained healthcare provider. "
Dr. Emily Volk, president of the College of American Pathologists, said the best path is to follow the instructions on the test kit they have on hand.
"The test is designed for the collection of samples that they describe in the instructions, so any deviation from that will not get the expected results," said Volk, who is also the medical director of Baptist Health Floyd in South India.
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There's probably nothing stopping people from experimenting at home, he said, but if they're using these tests to make decisions about treatment, quarantine and isolation, "you have to follow the directions for the test. Otherwise, it's not valid".
Test makers are paying attention, Volk said;
If they learn that there is a better way to collect samples, they will make adjustments.
The throat swab may turn out to be an effective way to gather material for these tests, said Dr. Sten Vermund, a pediatrician and infectious disease epidemiologist at the Yale School of Public Health.
But that data is not yet available.
"We don't have any evidence or data to back it up, but it wouldn't be unreasonable to do something like that," Vermund said.
People who are tested "try to minimize the risk of a false negative."
But is it worth it to undergo the gag-provoking experience of rubbing your tonsils?
"Even if you think you are more likely to detect the virus that way, you don't know," said Dr. Graham Snyder, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"The test will not work better if you use it in a way other than what its instructions say.
"We also know from a lot of data throughout the pandemic that rubbing your nose turns out to be pretty good, so I'm not even sure you have to have a throat swab."
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