Nose or throat swabs? Advice from doctors so you don't waste that COVID-19 testing kit

UC expert says rapid tests are most effective at least two days into COVID-19 symptoms

With COVID-19 cases surging thanks to the omicron variant, many people are turning to self-administered tests to see if they have the virus. Some who do their own research about the tests online, may find a wide variety of theories on the best way to administer the tests. In an article published by, Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine answers some questions about how to make the most of a home COVID-19 test.

He says using a throat swab or a nasal swab as a throat swab is not a good strategy. 

Professor Carl J. Fichtenbaum, MD shown here his in lab at MSB. UC/ Joseph Fuqua UC/Joseph Fuqua II

Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the UC College of Medicine/Photo/Joe Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

"Throat swabs are not very effective and there are molecules that sometimes interfere with the test and make it invalid," Fichtenbaum said. "Just the nose."

The self-administered COVID-19 antigen tests are designed to collect viral proteins. There are saliva tests, but the most common COVID-19 rapid, home tests are nasal swabs. Instructions provided with the tests specify how to use them.

Another common question is when to administer a home COVID-19 test. Fichtenbaum says it is best to wait at least a couple of days after the onset of symptoms. 

Fichentbaum explained: "The rapid tests appear to be most effective on those who are sick, two to four days into symptoms." If you're not feeling sick, the test's sensitivity is reduced.

Read the full story here.

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