You might want to change the way you do home COVID tests

By now, you’ve probably read a million articles and instructions on the right way to dab with a home COVID-19 test. You usually need to put the soft end of the swab about half an inch into your nose, swish it around each nostril for about 15 seconds, mix it with some liquid, and let the sample sit in the kit for exactly the right amount of time. . Then you want to repeat this process every other day. (Repeat the tests, the data showgreatly improves your chances of getting an accurate test result.)

Now newer evidence suggests you can take your home testing to the next level by swabbing more sites than your nose. Where you dab can be as important as When you dab.

Lots of virus must be present for rapid tests to produce a positive result, so their performance depends on swabbing where there is a large amount of virus in your body, scientists say. Sometimes it’s in your nose, and other times it’s not. So the more places you dab, the more likely your test kit is to detect the virus.

Here’s why — and how — you might want to take an extra swab the next time you test yourself for COVID-19.

What experts have learned about swabbing multiple sites

Although the Food and Drug Administration only allows home testing for nasal swabs for the time being, recently research showed that also testing your throat and mouth (with some discretion) may be the ticket to a positive result.

For most people, the COVID-19 virus is detectable in oral specimens (i.e. saliva from the mouth) days before it is detectable via nasal swabsaccording to Natasha Shelby, study administrator for COVID-19 research at the California Institute of Technology.

In research it worked, some people have tested negative with nasal swabs for up to eight days while testing positive with a saliva sample, throat swab, or nasal PCR lab test (which is much more sensitive, and therefore accurate , than the kits usually sold in pharmacies) .

“In some cases, the virus was seen at extremely high and likely infectious levels in the throat while nasal swabs remained negative,” Shelby told HuffPost — with a small number of people infected. Never returning a positive result via nasal swabs, possibly due to a low viral load in the nose.

“This finding clearly contradicts the popular belief that daily antigen testing is more efficient than delayed but high-sensitivity PCR testing,” she said. Testing multiple sites is the way to go, especially at the start of an infection, because viral loads can vary from site to site, Shelby added.

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Collecting multiple sites may help you get a more accurate home COVID-19 test.

Here’s how to clean yourself properly

While there seems to be an advantage to swabbing multiple sites, you don’t want to use the same swab on, say, your throat and nose, according to Rustem Ismagilov, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering at Caltech and principal investigator for COVID -19 studies at school. It could actually hurt the performance of tests specifically designed for the nose, he said, so yYou must use a separate swab for each location.

“When I had to test, I did two separate tests: one on the throat swab and one on the nasal swab,” Ismagilov said.

Some people on social media report do the same – receive a negative result on a nasal swab but a positive result from a throat swab.

On the other hand, Dr. Sheldon Campbell, a laboratory testing expert at Yale Medicine and a professor of pathology at the Yale School of Medicine, recommended sticking to FDA-approved guidelines until more data becomes available. Still, there are other ways to improve your chances of getting an accurate result.

Campbell said you don’t want to start testing yourself immediately after being around someone who has COVID-19 because then the chances of testing positive are slim, even if you have been infected.. People’s viral loads are usually low at the start of an infection, so he recommended test yourself every 48 hours – at two days, five days and seven days after exposure – or whenever you develop symptoms.

“You want to retest periodically because your chances of testing positive in an infection are improving,” Campbell said.

Another tip is to dab when you first wake up. Shelby’s research team found that taking a COVID-19 test in the morning was more effective than taking it in the evening.

“If you must use an antigen test, you can increase the effectiveness of this test by taking it early in the morning,” she said.

Finally, store-bought tests are not intended for the elderly, immunocompromised, or other high-risk individuals., Campbell said. If you are potentially vulnerable to a serious illness and might need treatment like the drug Paxlovid, he recommended that you take a PCR lab test.

Ismagilov said he hopes the FDA will consider more than just nasal swabs for home testing in the future. (Canada, Great Britain And Israel have already approved throat-nasal kits.) The agency is expected to conduct further studies to revalidate swab tests from other sites, but Ismagilov and other scientists say it would be worth it just in case. a new variant is emerging that is more detectable in the mouth or throat.

“Knowing which tests work with throat swabs would at least prepare us to deal with a variant like that,” Ismagilov said.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but advice may change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most current recommendations.

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