A graphic illustration of the nasal swab test is causing people to cringe and convincing many of them to heed the warnings from health officials and stay home during this relentless pandemic.
The nasopharyngeal swab test, which is being used in hospitals and drive-through testing sites across the country, is done by inserting a long plastic stick deep into a person’s nasal cavity and spinning it for a few seconds to absorb a good amount of secretions. The sample is then refrigerated and sent to a lab.
Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, said this is “kind of a bizarre test” even for clinicians.
“You just keep thinking, ‘I can’t really put this any farther, can I?’” he told the Daily News.
Many who have taken the test described the uncomfortable experience on social media, including a TikTok user who filmed herself getting tested while sitting in a car.
“Yeah, it’s awful. I’m sorry,” a health care worker said after the visibly uncomfortable young woman winces and coughs.
“Felt like I was being stabbed in the brain,” she wrote in the caption.
A new medical illustration showing how far back in a person’s nasal cavity the swab must reach went viral on Twitter this week after it was shared by a pediatric nurse practitioner.
The shocking image, created by MediVisuals, has been retweeted nearly 60,000 times, giving many users another reason to remain isolated and avoid getting infected — or even tested. UC Davis Health, which featured the image in a recent post, says the 6-inch swab should be rotated several times in both sides of the nose for the best results.
“I had it done yesterday. It’s that far back and in both nostrils,” one Twitter user wrote. “My eyes teared up, felt like I needed to sneeze and my nose got extremely runny.”
But many users disagreed, noting that it’s not nearly as uncomfortable as many other medical procedures and tests.
“Speaking from experience, the test isn’t all that bad,” said another Twitter user who was apparently infected. “What’s bad is waiting a week+ to find results while periodically you feel like you’re not going to be able to breathe and simple things like walking around make you feel like you’ve been lifting a truck.”
A long Q-tip shoved up your nose: what to expect from a coronavirus test
Unfortunately, Blumberg said this is the best test because it’s more accurate and collects a better sample than oral swabs. The procedure is done for other infections, including pertussis, known as whooping cough.
But he noted that despite the discomfort, it is not a painful test.
“There is no question that it’s uncomfortable,” he said. “But it shouldn’t hurt. It’s not like a needle piercing the skin.”
Other types of COVID-19 tests are being developed, including some that would use blood, but there’s no timeline for any of them to be available yet.
“This is a rapidly involving area,” Blumberg said.
President Trump, who was tested for the virus last month, described the experience to reporters during a March 16 news conference.
“Not something I want to do every day. I can tell you that,” he said. “It’s a test. It’s a medical test. Nothing pleasant about it."