Doctors urge patients to follow home test kit directions

Walk-in clinic
Posted at 4:33 PM, Jan 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 08:01:53-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Doctors urge against people swabbing their own throats as it deviates from COVID-19 home test directions.

However, in countries like Israel, they've switched to throat swabbing for early detection.

Millions of people are ordering their free COVID-19 home tests from the government, but if you deviate from the directions, you could get a wrong result.

Some patients report their first symptom with omicron is a sore throat. "We’re seeing scratchy throat, fever, significant nasal congestion, body aches," Dr. Ed Shackelford said.

Using a home test kit to swab your throat instead of your nose is risky, according to Shackelford, who helps run Vanderbilt's walk-in clinics across the mid-state.

"I honestly don’t know if I’d be able to swab my own throat so I would in part worry that you just wouldn’t get a good sample,” Shackelford said. “I think certainly there is a risk of minor injuries and that’s why it’s not been recommended by the CDC or the FDA to swab your own throat right now."

Scratching your throat would hurt too. When in doubt, leave it to the professionals.

"I would also caution people that they may not be the most accurate tests early on for symptoms," Shackelford said, "but if you have continued concern at that point, you may want to be seen in a clinic for a more accurate PCR test."

Dr. Shackelford said approximately 50% of patients with symptoms have been positive at the walk-in clinic. Shackelford said, "and we do primarily nasal swabs, so I think we’re still having a pretty positive rate for those."

He said it's imperative that people follow the directions on an antigen test unless advice changes.

"Early on in the symptoms, I think they’re going to have a fairly high risk of a false negative anywhere from 5 to 20% depending on what you look at," Shackelford said. However, Dr. Shackelford said home tests are a great tool for people with transportation obstacles, or those who don't live near a testing site.

"I know the CDC has also released guidance on using these home tests on kids who are exposed," Shackelford said.

Due to the snow and bad weather, Dr. Shackelford said they've seen a lull in testing. However, we're not out of the woods, omicron is still spreading rapidly in the community.