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Operation means no nasal swabs: How can I get a Covid test in France?

Alternatives to nasopharyngeal swabbing exist such as salivary swabbing or oropharyngeal testing - we explain

Alternatives to nasopharyngeal swabbing exist: either at the back of the throat (oropharyngeal swab) or in the mouth (saliva test) Pic: Marmolejos / Shutterstock

Reader question: I have recently undergone an operation to remove polyps in my nasal area so I am unable to have a PCR or antigen test as I can not have swabs put into my nose cavities. What are my options for obligatory tests?

Nasal RT-PCR tests have the advantage of being effective in identifying the Covid virus in symptomatic and asymptomatic patients. 

However, they pose a problem for some members of the population such as young children, very elderly patients, patients with psychiatric disorders and people with nasal issues such as after an operation.

For these groups, there are two other options for Covid 19 screening:

Test salivaire (saliva test)

Saliva sampling is performed by spitting into a collection tube. 

France’s Haute Autorité de Santé has confirmed that salivary RT-PCR tests are effective. The sensitivity of these tests is estimated at 85% (slightly lower - 3% to 11% - than that of nasal RT-PCR swab tests).

The HAS validated in February the use of saliva sampling if a patient is unable to perform a usual nasal swab test.

This test can be done by yourself or in a laboratory. The time taken for the laboratory to deliver the result of a saliva sample test is identical to the RT-PCR test on a usual nasal test swab.

If you decide to carry out this test yourself, be sure to follow HAS’ recommendations here

Test RT-PCR oropharyngé (oropharyngeal test)

The swab is introduced through the mouth to the back of the throat.

It can replace a nasal swab when there are contraindications (trauma or recent nasal surgery, bleeding diseases).

Unlike salivary tests, oropharyngeal tests are intended for people who are not symptomatic. 

To find out where to get tested near you and the types of tests available, check the website - you can filter, for example, for saliva tests.

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