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FDA warns against incorrect use of at-home COVID-19 test requiring nasal swab

Viral social media posts say swabbing your throat will yield a more accurate COVID-19 test. The FDA warns it could be dangerous.

AUSTIN, Texas — After a trend on social media, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns about safety concerns in swabbing your throat for an at-home COVID-19 test.

Throughout most of the pandemic, many at-home tests required swabbing nostrils for COVID-19. Other tests have included saliva in a tube, a less invasive nose swab and others. 

However, with the new omicron variant, some experts are recommending those being tested also swab their throats. This comes after the FDA said at-home COVID-19 test have reduced sensitivity to omicron. 

Since then, adding throat swabs to self-administered tests has gained attention on social media. Epidemiologist Michael Mina retweeted someone who tested negative multiple times through nasal swab tests but then tested positive when adding a throat swab.

He posted on Twitter saying that symptoms start early with omicron, and there's a chance the virus isn't growing in the nose but could start further down in places like the throat. So, he recommends adding a throat swab. 

However, the FDA cautions against this advice.

In a statement to KVUE, they said the COVID-19 test should be used as the instructions state.

"The FDA advises that COVID-19 tests should be used as authorized, including following their instructions for use regarding obtaining the sample for testing," said a spokesperson for the agency. "The FDA 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."


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