Should you swab your throat for COVID-19? Doctor warns it can be dangerous

ByMelanie Woodrow KGO logo
Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Should you swab your throat for COVID-19? Doctors weigh-in
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There's a new debate about at-home COVID-19 testing - Should you swab your throat for better results? Doctors weigh-in.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With more and more people testing themselves for coronavirus at home, some have taken to swabbing their throats, even though the FDA says you shouldn't.

After a suspected COVID-19 exposure, Audra Chamowitz tested herself at home.

Only this time, she swabbed her throat and her nose.

"We actually found a YouTube video that we watched before I did it the first time," said Chamowitz.

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The trend spreading online is not recommended by the FDA, but even one well known local doctor says he's done it too.

UCSF Professor Dr. Bob Wachter says after his son tested negative for COVID despite having symptoms, the next day he tested him by swabbing his throat and nose.

"And that turned out to be positive. I don't think we know enough yet to say that everybody should do that, but that was what I did based on my current read of the evidence," said Dr. Wachter.

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Dr. Joe DeRisi is also a UCSF Professor and President of the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, which has sought to answer whether rapid antigen tests work well in detecting omicron.

"What we found is that the rapid antigen test, specifically the Binax Now works just as well with omicron as it has with previous variants," said DeRisi.

He does not recommend using the Binax Now test in the mouth or throat.

"It can be dangerous swabbing your throat," said DeRisi.

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"It's really important to use the Binax test the way it was approved to be used in the nose," he continued.

ABC Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Jen Ashton also recommends following the test's instructions.

"It really depends on the test, so do not take a test that's made and designed for nasal swab and use it in your throat," said Dr. Ashton.

It's a warning Chamowitz, who has swabbed her throat twice, says she didn't know before today.

"I have not heard that," said Chamowitz.

As for whether she'd test by throat again?

"I guess not," she said.

Dr. DeRisi says he's studying cheek, saliva and throat swabbing and expects to have that data soon.