How To Obtain A Nasopharyngeal Swab Specimen
Preparation and Equipment
Nasopharyngeal swabs are specifically manufactured to have long, flexible shafts made of plastic or metal and tips made of polyester, rayon, or flocked nylon. In addition to nasopharyngeal swabs, you will need personal protective equipment (PPE), including a gown, nonsterile gloves, a protective mask, and a face shield, as described below. Make sure that all sample tubes have been labeled and that the appropriate requisition forms have been filled out before starting the procedure.
First, put on a protective gown, wash your hands with soap and water (or use an alcohol-based solution), and put on a pair of nonsterile gloves. Then put on a protective mask with a rating of N95 or higher, as recommended by the CDC. Finally, put on a face shield for face and eye protection.
- Masks are recommended for all patients suspected of having Covid-19. Ask the patient to take off her mask and blow her nose into a tissue to clear excess secretions from the nasal passages. Remove the swab from the packaging. Tilt the patient’s head back slightly, so that the nasal passages become more accessible. Ask the patient to close her eyes to lessen the mild discomfort of the procedure. Gently insert the swab along the nasal septum, just above the floor of the nasal passage, to the nasopharynx, until resistance is felt.
- Insert the swab into the nostril, parallel to the palate. If you detect resistance to the passage of the swab, back off and try reinserting it at a different angle, closer to the floor of the nasal canal. The swab should reach a depth equal to the distance from the nostrils to the outer opening of the ear. The CDC recommends leaving the swab in place for several seconds to absorb secretions and then slowly removing the swab while rotating it. Your institution may also recommend rotating the swab in place several times before removing it. Ask the patient to reapply her mask.