10 things to know about COVID-19 testing

Testing for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is increasing in many communities. But who actually needs coronavirus testing, and what types of tests are most accurate? What actually happens during a COVID-19 nasal swab test? And what does it mean if your test results come back negative? We spoke with Micah Bhatti, M.D., to learn more. What actually happens during a COVID-19 nasal swab test? How does COVID-19 testing work? The person conducting the test will insert a long stick with a very soft brush on the end — kind of like a pipe cleaner — up your nose and twirl it around for a few seconds. The soft bristles will collect a sample of secretions there for analysis. The swab has to go pretty far back, because cells and fluids must be collected from along the entire passageway that connects the base of the nose to the back of the throat to get a really good specimen. The body is not used to having an object in that area, though, so it creates a lot of very odd sensations. For one thing, it activates the lachrymal reflex, which means it’ll bring tears to your eyes if it’s done correctly. I wouldn't go so far as to say it hurt, but it is uncomfortable. Since the swab will also touch the back of the throat, it may also trigger a gag reflex. Are there any other types of COVID-19 tests available? Yes, tests can be performed on other specimen types that are less invasive, such as a throat swab. But they are less sensitive than the COVID-19 nasal swab test....