Just the Facts: Taking a Nasopharyngeal (NP) Swab
Respiratory virus packs normally contain materials sufficient for 4 to 6 swabs for culture of respiratory viruses such as influenza virus, parainfluenza virus, and respiratory syncytial virus.
The following will be needed:
- Masks, goggles, gowns, and gloves
- Cotton swab
- Plastic swab with fibre tip
- Viral transport medium
- Call the Health Unit to ensure that an outbreak number is assigned to the specimen and that the Public Health Lab is notified.
- Put on your personal protective equipment (mask, goggles, gown, and gloves).
- Position person with bed raised to 45 degrees or in a comfortable position.
- Clean nares with the cotton swab.
- Estimate the distance the swab will need to be inserted into the nose, by ensuring the distance from the tip of the earlobe to the tip of the nose. As a rule of thumb, the swab will need to be inserted approximately half of that distance (see picture).
- Incline person’s head as shown in picture and gently insert the swab into the nostril to the previously determined mark.
- Rotate swab 3 to 5 times as tolerated and leave it in place for a few seconds to absorb the material.
- Withdraw swab and insert into transport medium provided. Break swab shaft evenly at the scored line and cap vial tightly. Don’t forget to label specimen container.
- Complete requisition form with all pertinent information.
- Use sealable bag to transport specimen to the laboratory:
- Place transport medium in sealable bag.
- Seal bag by removing blue strip to reveal adhesive.
- Place requisition in outer pocket.
- Refrigerate specimen immediately.
Remember: Viral transport medium may be stored at room temperature until it is used Always check expiry date on transport medium before use.