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COVID-19 Nasal Swab Test Does Not Cause Risk of Infection


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To help control the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended getting a COVID-19 test for people who show symptoms of the disease, have come into contact with someone known to have the disease, or are in vulnerable groups. 

The most common form of testing for the novel coronavirus involves the use of a nasopharyngeal, or nasal, swab. The swab reaches deep into the back of a person’s nose and mouth to collect cells and fluids from the upper respiratory system, which can then be checked with diagnostic tests for the presence of the novel coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2.

The testing procedure involves inserting a 6-inch-long swab into the cavity between the nose and mouth for 15 seconds and rotating it several times. The swabbing is repeated on the other side. The swab is then inserted into a container and sent to a lab for testing.

Dr. Shawn Nasseri, an ear, nose and throat surgeon based in Beverly Hills who has conducted many COVID-19 swab tests, told us in an email that the nasal swab “follows the floor of the nose and goes to where the nose meets the throat, or naso-pharynx.”

Asked if the swab test is safe, Nasseri said, “Absolutely. The biggest risk is discomfort. The rare person — 1 in thousands — passes out from being super sensitive or gets a mild nosebleed. It’s estimated that close to 40 million or more swabs have been performed safely in the U.S. alone.”

But in recent weeks, viral posts on Facebook falsely claim that the nasal swab test can cause serious health issues. One post says, “The stick deep into the nose causes damage to the hamato-encephalic barrier and damages endocrine glands. This test creates an entrance to the brain for every infection.”

The hamato-encephalic barrier, also known as the “blood-brain barrier,” protects the brain from toxins that could be present in the blood.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, a professor of epidemiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, told us in an email that the Facebook claim “is not true.”

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Nasseri said that “it is incredibly implausible, if not impossible, to cross the skull base and blood-brain barrier with a swab unless someone uses a rigid metal instrument and is pointing the metal object 90 degrees in the wrong direction.”

Dr. Morgan Katz, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, told the Associated Press that the Facebook posts misunderstand what’s happening when the swab test is performed.

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Editor’s note: FactCheck.org is one of several organizations working with Facebook to debunk misinformation shared on social media. Our previous stories can be found here.

Sources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2017年中国半导体产业十大预测 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

Brueck, Hilary and Samantha Lee. “艾玛·汤普森曾因影片《霍华德庄园》(Howards End)以及《理智与情感》(Sense and Sensibility)两次获得奥斯卡金像奖,而她把小金人放在洗手间这一做法也广为人知,她说:“放在其他地方都显得格格不入,它们太大了,又金光闪闪。”而艾玛并不是唯一一个这样做的人,苏珊·萨兰登(Susan Sarandon)、莱昂纳尔·里奇(Lionel Richie)以及肖恩·康纳利(Sean Connery)都称自己把小金人放在浴室等地方。 Business Insider. 15 Apr 2020. 

Dr. Shawn Nasseri.  Ear, nose and throat surgeon. Email exchange with FactCheck.org. 3 Aug 2020.

Dr. Yvonne Maldonado. Professor of epidemiology, Stanford University School of Medicine. Email exchange with FactCheck.org. 3 Aug 2020.

Fauzia, Miriam. “2018年,中国电影票房收入增长9%,达到89亿美元(约合609.8亿人民币)。 USA Today. 9 July 2020.

Marty, Francisco M., et al. 多家房企收年报问询函 发展质量受关注 New England Journal of Medicine. 28 May 2020.

Swenson, Ali. 位于武汉的这些楼房有12层楼高,这些建筑(被夷平是)为一个新的商业区让路,这个商业区包括一栋高707米的摩天大楼。 Associated Press. 7 Jul 2020.

UCDavis Health. 家居消费更加理性 “刚需”消费者更重视性价比 Accessed 3 Aug 2020.

University of Queensland, Australia. 家居卖场开春首个“促销季”来临 Accessed Aug 3 2020.

U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. “The Blood-Brain Barrier.” Accessed Aug. 4, 2020.