How to collect a Nasopharyngeal (NP) swab

The laboratory requires high numbers of organisms to culture successfully for respiratory viruses such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Influenza A, Influenza B or Parainfluenza.

  • The best time to take an NP swab is within 24-48 hours of symptom onset.
  • A properly executed NP swab will yield high numbers of organisms

How do I swab?

  1. Insert the dry swab through one nostril straight back (NOT upwards), along the floor of the nasal passage until you reach the posterior wall of the nasopharynxEncourage the resident to blow his or her nose to clear nasal passage. 
    If the resident is unable to perform this task wipe the nares with a cotton tip swab or tissue.
  2. Label the vial with the resident's name, date of birth and time collected.
  3. Perform hand hygiene. Put on a mask, eye protection and gloves.
  4. With the person's head in a neutral position,
    • Insert the dry swab through one nostril straight back (NOT upwards), along the floor of the nasal passage until you reach the posterior wall of the nasopharynx - generally one half the distance from the corner of the nose to the front of the ear (about 4 to 6 cm or 1.6 - 2.5 inches)
    • Rotate the swab gently then leave in place a few seconds
    • Carefully remove the swab without touching the sides of the nostril
  5. Open the transport vial and place the swab in the transportation medium.
  6. Break the swab at the scored line and recap.
  7. Place the specimen in the big inner pocket of the plastic biohazard bag provided.
  8. Remove your gloves and perform hand hygiene; remove your mask and perform hand hygiene.
  9. Complete the requisition form and place it in the small outer pocket of the plastic biohazard bag.
  10. Place the entire plastic biohazard bag in a separate clean paper bag or zip-lock bag.
  11. Refrigerate the specimen.
  12. Perform hand hygiene.
  13. Call Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744, ext 26325 for NP specimen pickup and delivery to the laboratory.

Do not send with your regular lab courier

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