Coronavirus

What does the COVID-19 swab test feel like?

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FILE – In this May 20, 2020, file photo, Salt Lake County Health Department public health nurse Lee Cherie Booth performs a coronavirus test outside the Salt Lake County Health Department in Salt Lake City. Public health officials have said robust testing for the coronavirus is essential to safely lifting stay-at-home orders and business closures, but states are creating confusion in the way they are reporting the data. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Some people may be familiar with the flu test nasal swab, and as more people are getting tested for COVID-19, they are realizing the test involves a deeper, moderately uncomfortable nasal swab.

Could this possibly cause people to shy away from getting tested? What does it feel like? Is it painful? These are all questions many have asked as videos continue to surface of people being tested.

According to Birmingham-based pathology group, Red Mountain Diagnostics, doctors test for COVID-19 by collecting a culture from the uppermost part of the throat, behind the nose. Medline Plus says doctors will ask you to cough before the test is performed and to tilt your head back. A cotton-tipped swab is gently passed through a nostril and into the nasopharynx—which is located over the roof of the mouth. The swab is quickly rotated and removed.

A couple of people who were asked to be tested say the test was “very uncomfortable.”

“It was awful,” said LaChandra Watts, BSN Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab program coordinator at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

“In my experience, the swab was inserted far into my nasal passage and my eyes watered. My nasal passage burned for minutes after the test was done,” Watts said. “The lab tech tried to be as fast as possible but there is no way to get around the discomfort.”

However, she adds that it was “very worth it.”

“To know I’m not spreading the deadly virus to my loved ones gives me peace in these uncertain times. As a nurse, I want to lead by example.”

Shirley Ravizee, a grandmother, says she was required to have a test by doctors before her eye surgery.

“It burned a bit but only for five seconds,” Ravizee said. “The doctors say it’s only uncomfortable for five seconds, I just had to relax.”

People may be wary of getting tested because of the apparent discomfort, but doctors say ultimately, it should not be a deterrent from getting tested and keeping others around you safe. As the CDC instructs, only get tested if you have symptoms and/or have consulted with your physician.


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