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Nasally or Orally: Which Is Better for Rapid COVID Test Accuracy?

August 22, 2022

Nasally or Orally: Which Is Better for Rapid COVID Test Accuracy?

COVID-19 has swept the globe as one of the largest events to challenge contemporary public health. You may have had a COVID-19 infection or experienced some of the difficulties that the pandemic has posed to your family, travel, or your professional life. 

At this point in the pandemic, we are all aware of how COVID-19 spreads, what its symptom pattern is, and how to test for it. If you’re thinking about making travel plans this summer, it’s important for you to be as informed as possible when making a decision to take a COVID test. 

There are a number of tests that you can take to check for the coronavirus, including rapid tests – which come in a nasal or oral test form – and PCR tests, which are sent to a lab for processing. 

At The I.V. Doc, we care just as much about your health and wellness as you do. We’ve put together this overview on rapid COVID diagnostic tests and whether the nasal or oral test is more accurate. 

What Are the Symptoms of Coronavirus?

Though the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been around since late 2019, there seems to be a new variant emerging every few months. Some, like the Omicron variant, have a shorter incubation rate for faster infection after close contact. 

That’s why it’s so important to undergo serial testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection when you suspect that you may have been exposed to the coronavirus or if you notice that you have symptoms. 

So, what are the symptoms of COVID-19? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, coronavirus symptoms include a fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, loss of taste or smell, and fatigue. Other symptoms that you might experience are a sore throat, nausea or vomiting, and congestion. 

However, not every person who is exposed to COVID-19 and receives a positive result exhibits symptoms. These cases are known as asymptomatic. It’s important to get tested for COVID-19 to see if you test positive if you have been exposed to someone who has it, especially if there is a high prevalence in your area — even if you aren’t exhibiting symptoms. 

What Is a COVID Test?

Not all COVID tests are created equal. There are a number of types of tests with varying degrees of accuracy that are offered today to help you get tested for COVID. The two kinds of viral tests, rapid COVID-19 tests or point-of-care tests and laboratory (PCR) tests, are available in various forms, which we’ll review below. 

Laboratory or PCR Tests

PCR coronavirus tests are the gold standard when it comes to COVID-19. These tests use either saliva or a nasal swap that takes a sample of genetic material. Once you have completed the test, your test is sent to a lab for evaluation. 

You will usually receive results within three to five days. Sometimes tests take longer, like if the area where you are getting tested is highly populated, but the turnaround time on PCR tests is fairly standard. 

Rapid Tests 

If you get tested for coronavirus with a rapid antigen test, then you will receive your results more quickly than with a PCR test. Similar to PCR tests, you can take a rapid test orally or nasally and will generally wait 15-20 minutes for antigen test results. 

Antibody Tests

Unlike Rapid and PCR tests, antibody tests are administered to test for the presence of antibodies from COVID-19. Antibodies are proteins in your body that your immune system produces to fight off infection and prevent future infections. 

While the antibody test is not an accurate evaluation of whether you currently have COVID-19 they can reveal the presence of having had COVID-19 in the past. 

Rapid COVID Test Accuracy: Nasally or Orally?

Now that you are familiar with the different types of COVID tests, let’s look into rapid antigen tests and which kind is more accurate. Between taking a rapid test orally or nasally, what’s the difference? Which one is more accurate? Let’s look at each a bit more in-depth below. 

Taking a Rapid Test Nasally 

If you’re taking a rapid test, you’re likely going to be offered one of two options; a test conducted through saliva or a nasal swab. The nasal swab tests can either be an anterior nasal swab or a nasopharyngeal swab, which goes much deeper into your nose. 

Though neither are harmful or dangerous, the nasopharyngeal test is significantly less comfortable than the anterior test. 

Taking a Rapid Test Orally

When it comes to oral tests, there are a few variations available. There are throat swabs and saliva collection tests, both of which do not cause much in the way of discomfort. The saliva test involves placing saliva into a sterile collection container, while the throat test is a simple swab to the back of your throat. 

Both types of oral tests can be either rapid tests or PCR tests. These antigen tests have relatively high degrees of accuracy, particularly when the person being tested is exhibiting symptoms or more than one rapid test is taken within a few-day period. 

At The I.V. Doc, we offer rapid COVID-19 antigen testing that you can book online without having to wait days for an available slot. Our rapid antigen test is administered by a registered nurse who comes to your home and performs the home test. 

With so many new variants, it’s critical that you prioritize your time and your health by ensuring that the test you are taking is being administered professionally. 

While no testing option is 100% accurate, saliva-based tests have shown to have higher accuracy with the current COVID-19 variants. You can schedule a test here with The I.V. Doc for same-day COVID-19 testing. 

The Verdict

So, you know the difference between the different kinds of COVID tests and are more familiar with the difference between oral and nasal rapid tests. So, what’s the verdict? 

The saliva test consistently shows itself to be more accurate across both rapid and PCR tests. Specifically the saliva rapid test for a more accurate test result. 

With antigen tests offered at home, it’s critical to ensure that if you are performing a test (without a healthcare provider) that you do so by carefully following the instructions. 

You want the most accurate test possible — especially if you are traveling or need a negative test for an upcoming event. This is why, with every one of the tests available through The I.V. Doc, you will have a registered nurse who handles administering your test. 

The I.V. Doc and COVID-19 Testing Services

At The I.V. Doc, your health and wellness are our priority. In addition to the extensive IV services we deliver to you in the comfort of your home, office, or hotel room, we have also provided comprehensive coronavirus testing since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Whether you are looking for a rapid COVID test or a PCR test, we’ve got you covered. One of the most popular reasons why people are looking to get tested for COVID is for travel purposes. There are a number of airlines and countries that require a negative test for entry, which is why The I.V. Doc offers PCR tests for travel

Our PCR test is able to be scheduled and administered on the same day – that means you won’t have to wait days after scheduling a test. One of the registered nurses on our medical team will come to you in the privacy of your home or office to perform an oral and anterior nasal swab test. Don’t worry; these aren’t the uncomfortable nasal swab tests.

Once you have been tested, you will be assigned a physician on our team to work with you throughout the entire process while you await test results and after your test results return. The process couldn’t be simpler with The I.V. Doc. 

We’ve eliminated long wait times and unnecessary travel to and from testing sites. It can’t get any easier.

The Bottom Line 

Your health and safety are our top priority. At The I.V. Doc, we care about your health and understand the impact a team of medical professionals can have on your wellbeing. 

If you suspect that you have been exposed to COVID-19, the best thing you can do is to take a test. PCR tests are sent to a laboratory for processing, so you might wait longer to receive results. 

If you don’t have time or are looking to get tested immediately for the coronavirus, consider taking a rapid test. 

Taking a rapid test orally does yield more accurate results. With The I.V. Doc, you can schedule your rapid test on the same day and receive your results quicker. We want you to feel informed and have peace of mind when it comes to your health and wellness. 


Symptoms of COVID-19 | CDC

COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know | CDC.

Which COVID-19 Test Should You Get? | Yale Medicine

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