How Do Nasal Swabs Compare Against Saliva Tests? |

shutterstock 1656883729
shutterstock 1656883729

Being able to diagnose COVID-19 quickly can help slow the spread of the contagious disease. To help the general public determine if they have COVID-19, manufacturers developed several testing methods including two self-collection systems. The fastest methods include getting samples from nasal swabs and saliva. They both diagnose COVID-19 quickly, but the methods and results vary.

Why Use a Saliva Test

The most common COVID-19 tests are nasal swabs. Saliva tests work similarly, as they show if your mucus has signs of the virus. Since the virus is passed through spit and mucus, infected cells show up in the mouth. Saliva can transmit the virus, the saliva tests are low-risk options for people who are worried about catching the virus.

Saliva Samples and Sensitivity

Saliva tests are highly sensitive, and they don’t require sticking a swab up the nose. Collecting a sample with a nasal swab can be inconsistent, due to the discomfort of the procedure. Saliva samples aren’t uncomfortable, so people collect better samples, leading to more accurate results. Saliva tests themselves are more sensitive, which also provides more reliable results when compared to tests that require nasal swabbing.

Pros and Cons of Nasal Swab Tests

In a health care setting, a professional health care provider collects the sample by sticking a swab in the patient’s nose. Collecting the sample can be uncomfortable, which can keep people from getting a test. Health care providers must be trained to collect and handle the sample accurately. Because COVID-19 can be transmitted through the nose, health care providers must wear appropriate personal protective equipment to protect themselves from catching and transmitting the disease.

Pros and Cons of Saliva Tests

Saliva tests are easier to implement. The individual can collect their saliva in a private location. The test does not require any discomfort or complicated equipment. Health care professionals do not need to wear full personal protection equipment for saliva tests, because they don’t have to conduct the test.

Health care settings save money by not having to replace PPE after every test. Patients must collect enough saliva for an accurate test, and some at-home tests can be awkward for patients to manage. Unfortunately, saliva tests are as readily available as nasal swab tests, and the general public does not know these tests exist.

Saliva PCR Tests vs. Antigen Tests

The best COVID-19 tests are PCR (real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) tests. They provide better diagnostics than a rapid antigen test. Most PCR tests take between 24 and 48 hours. Antigen tests provide results in a few minutes, but the result might not be accurate. An antigen test might signal that the patient had or has COVID-19, but the PCR test will confirm the diagnosis.

Whether at home or in a health-care setting, patients will appreciate the ease and comfort of the Saliva test. Patients will be more likely to do a saliva test, because they don’t have to stick a swab up their noses. The process of collecting and testing saliva is quick and safe.

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