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Should you use a throat swab or nose swab to find the omicron variant?

Throat swab vs. nose swab: Which is better at finding the omicron variant?

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Medical workers test people for COVID-19.

Medical workers test people for COVID-19 outside of the Draper Senior Center in Draper on Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The omicron variant of the coronavirus has continued to surge throughout the United States, leading people to take at-home COVID-19 tests to determine if they’re infected with the virus or not.

  • For some, it’s unclear if they should use a swab of the throat or a nose swab when conducting at-home tests.
  • Per Today.com, experts say a throat swab could provide a better result for those rapid COVID-19 tests. Most at-home tests require a nasal swab, though.

But the Food and Drug Administration still encourages Americans to use a nasal swab if their rapid at-home COVID-19 test calls for it.

  • “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,” Jim McKinney, a spokesperson for the agency, told Today.com in a statement.

Dr. Michael Mina, a former assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, recently tweeted that those infected by omicron may get sick faster, which means that there is a chance the virus isn’t yet growing in the nose when you first test.”

  • The “virus may start further down. Throat swab + nasal may improve chances a swab picks up (the) virus,” he said.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that anyone who tests negative for COVID-19 through a rapid test might want to get a second test — a PCR test — that takes a little more time.

  • “We do know that the most sensitive test that you can do is a PCR test, so if you have symptoms and you have a negative antigen test, then we do ask you to go and get a PCR to make sure that those symptoms are not attributable to Covid,” she said.
  • “Antigen tests still work quite well, and they work well especially in places that we’re using them, like in higher education, in test to stay in schools where we’re doing several tests, one every other day, every third day, and that’s really when they work well as well. So, we still are encouraging their use, they may not work as well as they had for the Delta variant,” Walensky said.

However, there is still a testing shortage across the country right now due to high demand and the lack of high supply. Scores of stores are running out of them.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said more tests will arrive in the U.S. later in January.