Doctors warn against swabbing your throat while using at-home COVID tests

'You're using these little, tiny, sensitive brushes that aren't really made for the throat... They can puncture you in the mouth.'
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- An at-home COVID-19 testing method is spreading quickly on social media.

It suggests people swab their throat instead of their nose to get a more accurate result.

Action News asked UCSF Fresno officials if a throat swab is more effective at detecting COVID-19.

"When we look at comparisons of studies between the nasal and the oral, they looked like they were fairly similar in the studies," explained Dr. Kenny Banh.

He added that he understands why some are now thinking of taking a throat swab, and why some claim on social media they're getting more accurate results than doing a nasal swab.

"When you have symptoms in that area, you probably have a higher viral load of COVID," he said. "It makes common sense why people are trying to do oral swabs."

However, Dr. Banh's concern is safety.

The swabs should be used as indicated on the box, because that's how they were approved for use -- for a reason.

"I do have issues because you're using these little, tiny, sensitive brushes that aren't really made for the throat," Dr. Banh said. "They can break. They can actually puncture you in the mouth if you did it incorrectly because they're small and skinny."

The FDA even put a warning saying it has "noted safety concerns regarding self-collection of throat swabs, as they 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."

According to health officials, if you take an at-home nasal swab test and get a negative result, and still have concerns, take a PCR test.

At UCSF's Fresno's COVID-19 testing site near Fashion Fair Mall, around 1,000 tests were done on Monday.

Dr. Banh said this huge demand for tests comes after holiday gatherings, where people could have been exposed to the virus, and because of how quickly Omicron is spreading.

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