Fact Check: Covid-19 Swab Test Do Not Damage The Brain

It is extremely unlikely for any person who doesn’t have a pre-existing weakness in the nose to cause any damage with a swab.

As more people are getting tested for the coronavirus, people are finding a nasal swab test bit uncomfortable. Recent news and reports suggest that people who have had the Covid swab test say that it feels like their brain is being pierced by an oversized cotton bud.

The reports are based on a case study published in a respected medical journal, JAMA Otolaryngol Head & Neck Surgery.

It tells of a woman in Iowa, USA, who was asked to self-swab for Covid before undergoing a hernia operation. Shortly after swabbing, fluid began leaking from her nose. She also developed a headache and started vomiting.

According, to the leading news website The Conversation, The 40-year-old woman had a pre-existing defect in the base of her skull (the bone at the top of the nose) and a sac of brain tissue had protruded out into the nasal cavity. This is a rare condition that we see in neurosurgery and in ear, nose, and throat clinics.

About one in 10,000 babies are born with a defect like this, but the rate at which it occurs in adults is unknown. In this lady’s case, it was probably because the pressure inside her skull around the brain was higher than normal, creating a weak spot.

According to Dr. Liz Coulthard, a committee member of the British Neuroscience Association (BNA), “The swab cannot reach the blood-brain barrier without significant force that breaks several layers of tissue and bone. We have not seen any complications from Covid swabs in our neurology practice”.

For most respiratory viruses, the best place to sample is the back of the nose, said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. When it comes to influenza, for example, nasopharyngeal sampling is much more sensitive and reliable than oral sampling, he noted.

Please do not be afraid of having your nose swabbed. It may be uncomfortable, but you cannot accidentally jab your brain. The swab test is our only way of telling who has and who hasn’t got COVID. It’s a vital public health tool to help us bring this pandemic under control.

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