My Experience With Getting a COVID Test

Athena ScalziI made it ten months into the pandemic without getting tested for COVID. Honestly, I think that’s a pretty good run.

I know several people that have to get tested frequently for work or school and whatnot, and I’m ridiculously glad that’s not been the case for me, because it was, shall we say, less than fun. In case you’re someone who has managed to avoid getting one so far, and want to know what it’s like (as I so desperately wanted to before I got mine), then read on!

Like many people, I have a handful of friends that I’ve hung out with regularly during the pandemic — little bubble that we’ve deemed “safe” (safe enough, anyway). However, unlike me, all my friends either go to school, or work outside their house, or live with roommates, or all of the above. So it probably wasn’t really that safe, even though I’ve cut down on hanging with even those I consider “safe” lately.

Still: one of these friends tested positive earlier this week. I figured I should get tested, too. My fear of getting tested, plus me not actually feeling sick at all, made me really hesitant to get tested. But I knew I had to do it. I couldn’t chicken out of something so important, even if I was terrified of it.

So I went to the urgent care two towns over and tried to walk in, but their door was locked. It was then that I noticed a sign on their front door that said their waiting room isn’t open. You had to scan a QR code, give them your information online, and wait for them to call you to come inside. I sat in my car and waited for a bit before they called me in.

I walked in, sat down, and was pretty much immediately asked to tip my head back. In every video I’ve seen of the test being administered, they always jammed the swab in really far back, but I’m pretty sure that in my case they didn’t really go that deep. Not that it didn’t feel like, really uncomfortable, but I’m pretty sure the videos make it look way worse than it normally is. And they also didn’t do it as roughly as what I’d seen in the videos.

It was definitely a little more than just uncomfortable, though: there’s no denying it hurt. I squeezed my eyes shut and literally groaned out loud from the feeling. The initial insertion was tolerable — it was more the ten seconds straight of twirling and swabbing the Q-tip around that burned and hurt. I immediately teared up when it was removed, but I wouldn’t say I cried. Much…

After I got tested, it hurt a little bit to breathe in through my nose. I think that’s probably just because it was like, irritated. It took a few hours before it stopped feeling funky. My friend that originally tested positive said it was uncomfortable and made her feel like she had to sneeze, but other than that wasn’t so bad. And my other friend that got one said the same, that it was just tickly for a second and didn’t hurt or feel bad afterwards. So I guess I’m just a huge baby or something.

So, yeah. Not the best experience I’ve ever had, but not bad enough to warrant not getting tested. If you think you have it, or have been exposed, get tested, even if it hurts a bit. It’s worth it.

If you’ve gotten tested, tell me about your experience! Am I really just a wimp or was it bad for you, too? Let me know in the comments, and have a great day.


70 Comments on “My Experience With Getting a COVID Test”

  1. My experience, back in July, was basically the same as yours. They did stick that swab further than I would have expected possible given the geometry of my head.

    Unfortunately at that point it took me around three weeks to receive my results, making the whole exercise a bit pointless. (I tested negative, at least.) Hopefully you’ll get your results sooner.

  2. In the first days of COVID testing they inserted the nasal swabs really deeply. The sensitivity of the first available tests was limited so they had to maximize the amount of virus they collected.

    Later when the tests improved they were able to switch to a less invasive procedure that doesn’t penetrate the nasal cavity as deeply. That’s the version you received. Some test sites have people do the swab procedure themselves rather than having a nurse or technician administer it; that would have been impossible in the days of the deep swab procedure.

  3. It sounds a lot like the vinegar swab they do if they suspect cervical cancer, except… you know. Different body part. clears throat Anyhow. Moving on. Thx for sharing your experience.

  4. Congratulations on the test – here’s hoping that it is a firm, unambiguous, ‘negative’.

    My experience was much like yours, though I was advised to … grunt (?) during the rpocess. (It was months ago, and my memory is like a stel trap – ruisty adn illegal in 39 states)

    The question I DO have for you however, is “are you isolating from your family, until the results come in?”

  5. I got tested at a cvs in Dayton. There, you stick the thing up your own nose. Both nostrils. Very uncomfortable, but a fairly smooth process overall. Thankfully, my wife and I tested negative. And even though we went this past Sunday, got results back in 2 days. Surprisingly fast turnaround.

  6. I did a spit test a couple of weeks ago because my uni wanted everybody tested before Thanksgiving break. I filled out a form online, then after class I drove to a big empty parking lot with a few tents set up. I was given a tiny vial and asked to spit in a vial until it reached the 1.5 line. That took the longest (I kept trying to think minty thoughts). Then I handed it in and drove off. The next day I got an email saying my results were negative. (If they had been positive, I would have gotten a phone call and would have had to go into an actual clinic to get a more sensitive test with a small probability of a false positive.)

  7. I went through that back in June before I had surgery, it was a drive up testing site and even though I knew what was coming it was a shock and definitely uncomfortable. Hope yours comes back negative.

  8. I had a test in September because I had a slight cough, Mom’s birthday was coming up, and I wanted to visit without taking any chances.

    Called my regular GP and was given a precise time for the next day. I arrived about two minutes early, my name was called while I was just checking in at the reception, and three minutes later I was back out. Very impressive organisation!

    The test itself was less bad than I had expected. Temperature check, first swab in mouth, second swab in nose, not too deep, not painful. Then they gave me a form with an app and a QR-code to get the results (there was also a phone number), they showed up on my phone the next day, everything was fine.

  9. Similar to BilliamJ (last June, before surgery, drive-up–stayed in car) but twice (for two cataract surgeries) at two-week intervals. I have narrow nasal passages, but they handled it nicely and with only a moment’s discomfort–and with results, both negative, posted to my health account the next day. Could have been a lot worse.

  10. I’ve done the “drive-through” test twice from my local pharmacy, and once before a job interview at a hospital — and, sticking a Very Long Q-Tip up each nostril and twirling it around is…disconcerting, to say the least!

    But it’s not actively painful (at least it wasn’t for me), so I feel it’s worth the fifteen minutes of making cartoon faces until my face feels normal again. Sounds like you might have had one of THOSE nurses — the kind that can even make a shot with a super-skinny needle agonizing.

  11. I got tested twice “for science” (I got into a study…) and got throat swabs both times (“harder to get right when you’re in a hurry but not as uncomfortable for the patient” they explained), blood samples, questionaires and interviews. Nice to see science at work and to help out with that. (And no positive result – they would’ve notified me in that case).

  12. I had one done in late July; to me, it felt a lot like getting water up my nose – kind of a burning sensation. I sneezed as the nurse pulled out the swab. My test came back negative; I hope yours does, as well.

  13. I had three test.

    The first was because I had a cold and went to the doctor, who then told me to do a test because my symptoms were similar. It was a spit test.

    Second was also a spit test. I had to because I was flying to New York from Hong Kong, and NY was like, get tested three days before and also three days after the flight.

    The third was three days after I arrive. It was the swab inside the nose one, but it was mildly uncomfortable and that’s it. It wasn’t that deep, probably.

  14. I’ve had two tests, one a nasal swab (negative) and one spit test (positive). I did not find the nasal swab particularly uncomfortable. It stung a little, and then it was over. However, I have seen people say that exactly how uncomfortable the nasal swab is depends a lot on the exact conformation of your nasal passages. This suggests that you are not a big baby, but rather, you have a different size and shape of nasal passage.

    As for my positive test, I feel fine, and will be out of quarantine tomorrow. It delayed my start date for a job in Cleveland. But I start soon, and it will be nice to be working again.

  15. I also had a nostril test, but they handed me the swab and watched me swirl it in both nostrils while they counted for me (it was a drive-thru, so I appreciated that I didn’t have to leave my car or have to be in close proximity with anyone). Wasn’t too bad (my nose was irritated for a few minutes but it went away after that) and I got my negative result two days later.

  16. I work for a facility that does virological and COVID-specific research. “Color”, in SF, moved to the less invasive “anterior nares” nasal swabbing. Slight discomfort, but not too much so. Which is good as on-site to work twice per week had me testing every 4-5 weeks during the Summer/Fall. With the Winter uptick, we’ve ramped up to bi-monthly.

  17. I’ve been tested three times – twice as precautions due to my job/ state of virus in local area, and once because I actually had symptoms (even though I was pretty sure they were cold symptoms, still best to get it done). I think the experience depends on who’s giving the test, and whether you’re able to sit down/ brace against something. I was able to do that twice, and the time I couldn’t was definitely the worst (I nearly gagged). After the good tests, my nose felt like a large fly had gone up it and then I’d sneezed it out – a little bit painful but mostly just uncomfortable.

  18. I haven’t been tested yet (I don’t get out much and so far nobody I know has gotten it), but I have a gag reflex from hell and a nose that needs to be cauterized, so I figure the nasal swab would be a disaster for me for many reasons. Thankfully my work has spit tests so when the inevitable time comes for me, I’ll be able to avoid the nose.

  19. “I immediately teared up when it was removed, but I wouldn’t say I cried. Much…”

    So did I, and not just when it was removed, but from the moment the swab went in til it was removed, and for a short time after. All four times I’ve been tested (thus far).

  20. Took the family in to drive thru site after the youngster had symptoms… It was self service for the adults but the nurse was kind enough to offer the choice of us or him to do the kiddo in the back seat. He did it nicely, it was uncomfortable of course but no big tears from the back seat. Negative results (which we had suspected, symptoms didn’t exactly line up but were close enough to worry). But rather not do that again!

  21. Here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, my girlfriend and I went to CVS on Monday. The test was self-administered, and uncomfortable, though there is generally only so much discomfort that people can inflict upon themselves, so I may not have got the swab in quite as far as if another person was going prospecting in my skull.

    We got our results in two days, and both tested negative. We are going in for another test next week, just to be sure. A friend and my brother both tested negative the first time and positive the second time a few days later, so I will probably take the test about every other week for the foreseeable future.

  22. I haven’t needed that test yet. But good to know what is coming. I’ve had other tests that brought tears to my eyes. The new normal.

  23. I was tested a week before Thanksgiving–mostly a coincidence; the test was more or less because I’m going to be on campus preparing for teaching in the near future. I made an appointment and got a two hour window; walked in, waited in a short (and appropriately distanced) line for five minutes, and stuck the swab up my nose myself. It wasn’t bad, a lot easier than I’ve been led to believe it would have been if someone else has held the swab.

    For which I am glad, as there are likely other tests in my future. The results this time were negative (I assume; the university only informed people who have positive results), but it’s going to be a long winter . . .

  24. +1 to the list of those who teared up during and after the swab went up the nose. Took 15 minutes for my eyes to stop watering afterwards.

    (Probably wasn’t heped by the fact that I got tested because I had cold/flu like symptoms and so my sinuses were likely already sensitive without having a swab stuck up there and swirled around)

    Still not something I would like to undergo again

    (test came back negative though, so Yay)

  25. Not too bad a process, of having swab stuck up my nose… but only because I’ve had an ENT specialist run a flexible camera stalk up my nose and down my throat to look at vocal cord polyps. No less unpleasant… just familiar.

  26. I had a baby in July and the hospital policy was to test all mothers. So my test was pretty unpleasant, but at that point, so was paperwork.

    (I hope you were nicer to your nurse than I was–she kind of had to arm wrestle to do my test.)

  27. So at the end of Oct I wound up in the ER for an inflamed gall bladder (I was concerned it was my sketchy heart acting up, which is why I went). The test was disconcerting, and it did seem like they were scraping the inside of my skull with the swap. But it wasn’t so bad seeming at the time.

    Of course that could just be because it was either early in my visit, when I was still in severe abdominal pain, or a little later, after I’d had a morphine drip added to my arm.

    “Did the morphine make the pain go away?” “No, it made my give a shit go away”.

  28. I’ve been tested 3 times now. No more than a gentle insertion into my nasal passage. The second 2 times, I got the negative results in 24 hours.

  29. Two pre-surgeries. Same experience as you, it sucked. “But” I would rather do that then run a mile in the old M-17 protective mask. Those experiences are what make me want to scream at people who have the gall to thank me for my service but find a paper mask too much sacrifice. WWII food rationing? The draft? Everyone was forced to sacrifice for the good of all. Whining about your rights didn’t get much sympathy. Rant over . . .

  30. You’re not a wimp.

    For some reason, when I was tested the technician put the swab in through my mouth, not my nose. The first time she tried, I gagged – I couldn’t help it – and she couldn’t reach the back of my throat. The second time, the same thing happened. And the third time. She was almost ready to give up then, but she gave it one more try and got the swab all the way in.

    Ugh. It wasn’t exactly painful, but it was VERY unpleasant. And for the rest of the day all the way to bedtime (I was tested about 8:30 in the morning), I could feel exactly where the swab was poking around to get the sample.

    If I ever have to be tested again, I’ll do it – but I really really really hope I never have to.

  31. Athena,

    I’ve been tested twice, and the tech tells me that depending on which kind of test you get there’s a different type of swab and a different depth they need to get into your nasal cavity. The one I took was literally just a quick swab around the nostril, and yes, I wanted to sneeze, but it wasn’t deep enough to hurt.

    (Mine were the 15 minute tests.)

  32. Hmm, in New Zealand, it’s nowhere near ten seconds of twirling. Tis from when our Director General of Health got his test. My experience was much the same. It wasn’t painful, but slightly uncomfortable because nothing has ever been inserted that far up my nasal cavity before & it felt weird. I got my negative result back by txt just over 24 hours later.

  33. Mine was definitely uncomfortable, probably wasn’t that deep, but it felt like they left divots in the inside back of my skull. Don’t know if it’s something on the swab, yeah burned a bit for a while.Worth it anyway to know. Hope yours is negative too.

  34. I’ve had 2. My first was back in April and it was horrible. I cried. Actually cried. And I’ve been through natural labor. It felt like it lasted forever.
    I had another done a few weeks ago and I had it done simultaneously with my 6 year old and I totally did not want to cry in front of him and scare him. But this time was not bad at all. Barely uncomfortable. And my boy did great too. Not sure if it was a different type of test or the fact that I was symptomatic the first time but not the second?
    Good job getting done. Hope the turn around time is quick for you!

  35. I’ve been tested three times, all with this nasal swab test you describe.

    Back in May, it was a longer (physically) swab, but didn’t go in as long. The later two were shorter swabs but they did the 10 seconds of woodging about in there.

    None of them were comfortable, and you’re completely correct that the wiggling about for 10 seconds part is the worst.

    I think a lot of the discomfort is relative to who is doing the test. Everyone’s different, both the testers and the testees, and it’s sometimes going to be a better or worse match. Some of it may also be familiarity. In my memory, the first one was worst. But when I think about that second one—hoo, that swabbing about part was just me gritting my teeth and thinking that squirming around would only make it worse.

    #1 and #2 were done at drive-up centers, so my head was turned. #3 was done in the ER of a hospital, so I was able to sit more comfortably. Also, I was highly distracted. But also-also? It was my THIRD TIME. I knew what to expect. It hurt, and I gritted my teeth, and the nurse apologized, and I told her don’t be silly, I know it hurts, that’s just how it is.

    My eyes teared every time. That’s not a pain thing; that’s a “your tear ducts are connected to your nose and when those nerves are poked at, everything goes haywire” thing. It would be weirder if your eyes didn’t tear up.

  36. I got tested in NYC in April (I tested negative). Because I’m allergic to spring, my nose was stuffed up, and the swab up my nose relieved the pressure on my sinuses, which felt awesome.
    I’m sure if I didn’t have stuffed up nose it wouldn’t have been pleasant, but you asked….

  37. ER nurse here! We have two different tests and swabs. One is of the anterior nare – basically just swab around inside the nostril for 10 seconds. This test takes 1-3 days to get results back, and is more sensitive.

    If we need to know faster, we have a test that needs a nasopharyngeal swab. I’m not swabbing your nostril, I’m essentially swabbing your throat via your nose for 10 seconds. THAT one is the one that people complain about, and some patients flat out can’t sit still for it – I’ve had the swab slapped out of my hands mid-swab more than once. Others don’t seem to mind it as much. But only one of the hundreds I’ve swabbed has said it felt good!

    The test we have that runs off the nasopharyngeal swab is less sensitive – so we’d miss more mild cases with it. But we get results back in 30 minutes instead of 3 days. With a very sick patient, it’s better to get a “probably/probably not COVID” in 30 minutes instead of a “definitely/definitely not COVID” in 3 days.

    Other facilities may have other tests – all depends on what equipment they have available to run the tests in the lab, and which supplies they’ve been able to get in stock for that day.

  38. 30% false negative rate. That’s what my son’s pediatrician told us after his test (I got one too).

    So worth getting another one a few to five days later.

  39. My wife and I got a test in August at a drive-in temporary testing centre in the UK. But we had to swab the back of our own throats (tonsils area) with a very long cotton bud. Not very pleasant at all. Pretty much as if it was designed to trigger a gag reflex!

    Both negative, I’m glad to say,

  40. I got tested purely as a precaution some months back. (May? June? What is time in 2020?)

    It wasn’t nearly as bad as Ms Scalzi’s experience, based on the description, but it was not something I’d care to repeat given any say in the matter.

    Better in that it was not nearly as vigorous or ‘aiming for the back of the skull’ as described above, but also deeply unpleasant as having things in/shoved deep into my sinuses is all too reminiscent of a deeply unpleasant experience in my teens in which I sneezed whilst I had a pair of tictacs in my mouth. One of them Went Away, but the other tried to escape via the sinuses and got stuck roughly halfway.

    Probably took about 5 minutes of enthusiastic blowing to get it out, but it felt far longer. At least they weren’t peppermint, I guess.

    May all your tests be negative, and rarely required.

  41. I don’t think you’re a wimp for that. But, in my opinion, it also depends on who is doing the testing. I had to get tested once, my wife as well. We went to the same testing site but got different doctors to administer the test. Hers jammed it in almost brutally, both into the throat and the nose. Mine did the throat quite delicately and then asked me whether I get a nosebleed easily. When I replied that in fact I do she opted out of doing the nose completely.

  42. Dublin set up drive through testing at a couple of locations, and I had it done a few days after I flew in. It was completely painless. The swab they ran up my nose was small and really flexible. It felt exactly like one of those “I am about to have a MASSIVE sneeze” tickles, which is exactly what I did. I had results back within four hours.

    Good program, Ireland.

  43. I had one last week, and it was easy and quick – the nurse just swabbed the lower part of my nostrils and that was it. Took maybe thirty seconds, and I had the results the next day.

  44. Mine was more like your second friend, I felt like I needed to sneeze but otherwise no biggie. Wait 5 days (test on a Friday for a Tuesday procedure) to be negative. Much better to get the test and to know for sure.

  45. Athena, no, you’re not a wimp! As with nurses or techs who give you shots or take your blood, there is a big range in the people who do the Covid tests. I’ve heard people says they feel like their brains were probed, while others have no problem.

    I had to have laser surgery in May (no details necessary), so three days before I went to the hospital for a test. They are very efficient (except there was a woman with her mentally troubled son, who refused to wear a mask, roaming the hall outside the office – but I digress). I went in, gave them my name, and got probed. It was a little uncomfortable, but nothing like the reaction you had. And then, the next day I checked my Langone account and it said I had “cells” that proved I was positive! WTF? My wife and I rarely left the house other than to go shopping and always wore masks. I had NO symptoms at all, period. Neither did my wife. The next day my wife walked up to CityMD to get tested, and in her case, the nurse gave her the swab and let her do it herself (lucky her). And, of course, she was negative.

    I’ve heard of false negatives, but a false positive? Did I have it or not? If so, how could I have it and my wife not? Believe me, there is no way this could happen unless she was immune for some reason. My doctor was clueless, but said the hospital wouldn’t allow me to have the surgery, so postponed it for a month (when, thankfully, my test was negative. This time she asked me which nostril I preferred, and the probe was even less bothersome). I emphasize that none of the tests were the quickie Trump/White House tests that often miss infection, so I have no idea what happened, if I had it or not.

  46. You’re not a wimp! I’ve had the deep swab type of test done twice, and it took me a long time to stop whimpering after the first especially. And the inside of my face felt wrong for like a day each time! Having the swab put in was icky, but like you I thought the swirling it around was MUCH worse. So anyway, if you’re a wimp, then I’m a wimp too. Fingers crossed for a negative result!

  47. I made it nine months before I had to be tested. You know you’re an introvert when the pandemic really doesn’t affect your social life (or lack thereof) much.
    I felt like they were stabbing my brain through my nose. I did mine through a drive through testing site and I flopped like a fish the entire time she was in there twirling that swab around. It was one of the more uncomfortable things I’ve ever experienced.

  48. I’m sorry you had to go through that, Athena.

    I’m a big baby myself and so avoid all things medical like the plague (no pun intended. Honest) until things start to hurt or go dangerously numb.

    You don’t need me to shake my finger at you, but please, pretty please be as careful as you can.
    My sisters are about your age (they look at me like I’m from the planet Zorg when I ask them to sit in the house and be content with facetime, Zoom, Skype or Xbox) and feel reasonably comfortable hanging out in small groups.

    They’re adults and so can’t be instructed to stay home.

    Still, I worry and make it my business to remind them to be mindful of where their own “safe “group might or might not be doing when they’re at work, school, or living with other folks who might not be taking things as seriously as they should.

    I wish you negative test results and a safe holiday season. 😊

  49. its only a “bubble” if everyone in the bubble agrees that the only people they will interact with are people in the bubble.

    The virus can take several days to show symptoms, so you are exposed to the virus from not only the people you see directly, but anyone they see the week before they see you. And anyone who sees them the week before. And anyone who sees them.

    Its like seven degrees of Kevin Bacon, but instead of Kevin its cv19, and if you find a connection, maybe you die.

    We’ve all likely been more protected from cv19 due to the warm summer weather than our not-good social distancing attempts. The cold dry winter weather that viruses love is showing that few people are doing a good job of social distancing.

  50. There are definitely several different kinds of tests, as other commenters have mentioned.

    The spit test, the lower nostril test, and the brain tickler

    We are lucky because most of the labs around here are now using the lower nostril test. 10 seconds swirling just inside the nostril and then done. I was almost disappointed that it wasn’t the brain tickler, because I was curious about how my sinuses would feel afterwards. But I am very glad the nostril whirl was available because my 11 year old needs to be tested about once a month for school (they have some limited in person classroom time) and it would have been difficult to get her to accept the brain tickler.

    When you say “hanging out with your friends” do you mean outside with masks, inside with masks, or inside with no masks? There’s a huge difference in the risk level of those activities.

  51. I had a (spoiler: non-COVID) sinus infection so I got tested. They went deep into the side I indicated was the most impacted. It was pretty painful, but only for a second. But then my eye on that side just started watering uncontrollably – I had to sit in my car for about 5 minutes before I could see well enough to drive.

  52. It was very uncomfortable. The technician was in a hurry and jammed it in very deep. No swirling. It felt like she’d hit the outside of my brain. The feeling didn’t hurt, but I was uncomfortable for hours afterwards. And the results were negative. It’s not you, it’s definitely the test itself.

  53. I’m hoping I won’t need to be tested – my nose has been broken twice leaving my sinuses a collapsed labyrinth.

  54. I’ve had two tests, and my four year old has had one. (My first was because I had symptoms; the other two were because of an exposure at daycare.) It’s definitely uncomfortable, but I’d do it frigging weekly if 1) it were free, 2) we had enough tests, 3) they came back within a day, and 4) my boyfriend would do the same (and he has said that he would).

    As it stands my county’s about to go into full-on lockdown again so I’m downgrading my birthday party from “minimal viable party with myself and one 3-person pod distanced, in the backyard, with masks” to “Zoom lol fuck you”.

    I’d, uh, advise you to do the same. Those Thanksgiving dinners are about to turn into Christmas funerals and the hospitals are full.

  55. My home address was picked for a national study, so I took two at-home tests — a shallow nasal swab and a blood test. The swab wasn’t bad. It’s a good thing I only needed to prick my finger once to get enough blood for them, because those spring-loaded lancets have to be pushed really hard against the finger to trigger the blade. The push hurt more than the (eventual) prick.

    Both tests negative, and I’ve been working all through this in a job where work-from-home isn’t an option. On the other hand, my bosses made mask usage mandatory on pain of firing months before local government decided maybe they should do something to encourage people to mask up.

  56. I haven’t gotten tested but I have a high tolerance for pain. I once had a weird mole removed from my back. The dermatologist had numbed most of the area but not all of it. I thought about saying something but decided it wasn’t worth it. It was only a couple of minutes.

  57. my six year old picked up a cold right before thanksgiving, so her pediatrician called in a test for us (lines for walkup/drivethrough were hours long, and appointments booked through december). It was a drivethrough so she was already in a booster seat with a seatbelt.
    Per the instructions of the person giving the test, I held her hands in one of mine and used my other hand to hold her forehead in place. It was a 4 second swab and she said “that HURT!” and burst into tears (she’s had the less invasive one a couple of times and didn’t have that reaction.) The comment above from RN Andrew who said they’d had the swab slapped out of their hands multiple times is presumably why I got specific direction on hold to my child down.
    Anyway, ice cream solved the problem for my six year old, but I don’t think you’re being a baby. Good luck!!

  58. I’ve had two. One through the only local hospital, one through the state dept of health. I’ve had sixteen operations, including three sinus procedures, and I normally have a pretty high tolerance for pain. Both tests were conducted with me sitting in my car, rolling down the driver’s window.

    The first one hurt like hell. We’re talking me gripping the steering wheel as tight as I could – I had put the car in park. It was really bad and my eyes were blurry for a bit.

    The second one hurt, but wasn’t nearly as bad. I was prepared for it to be as bad as the first. As both of them were effectively scraping the back of my skull, as near as I can tell, I have to put it down to the technique of the person doing the swabbing.

    So it’s all about the tester and how bad of a day they’re having?

    Both tests were negative. I work at a university library and did the first one before going back to work, I did the second one before we reopened for the fall semester.

  59. Health care worker here who has (so far) only been tested once. Almost all of my immediate co-workers have been tested and we have had one positive.

    Of the swab tests, there are at least two different types. I can’t remember the exact names, but there is a “short swab” and a “long swab” test. The short one was the one I got. It felt like they had got to the top of my nose, rotated and repeated on other side. My test was only vaguely uncomfortable. The strep test I got at the same time was more painful (and those aren’t so bad). I was “aware” of my nose for about the next 90 minutes (It didn’t quite hurt, but didn’t feel good either.)

    Many of my co-workers got the long swab. They all said it felt like there brain was being scraped. On the pain scale, most rated it between 5 and 8. Many of them said there nose AND sinuses were painful for the rest of the day.

    So, you may have gotten the long swab while your friends got the short swab. That would explain the difference in pain levels.

    Best wishes for you. Hope you are negative!

  60. I agree with “–E:” If you teared up when tested, you’re not a big baby–it’s much more likely just “crosstalk” between the (adjacent) nasopharyngeal and lachrimal nerves. I had enough of the same reaction the first time I was tested that I asked the nurse for a Band-Aid ™ for where the end of the swab had come out the back of my head.

    I’ve had to have a number of subsequent “spit” tests (for work) since then, and here’s a tip in case you have hard time generating enough saliva: have your dad fry up some of his most mouth-watering (literally!) burrito precursors nearby. Onions would be good. Instant salivation guaranteed.

  61. Here in the UK we had to do a drive-up self test. Lockdown ended, all kids went back to daycare–mine had been in the whole time because partner is an essential worker–so after 3 glorious months of no colds my kiddo got one within a week–and partner’s asthma kicked off really badly from catching kiddo’s cold, so nurse told him to get tested “just in case.” Self test was HARD (I’m much better when others do things like that to me). First had to spin it around on my tonsils for 10 seconds (yeah, nope. I think I managed 5 before I was gagging too much). Then take that SAME swab and shove it as far back as possible up a nostril–gently–and spin it around for another 10 seconds. Weirdly, I would have been less squicked out if I’d done the nose first, then the throat. It didn’t hurt, as such, but I was struggling to control my gag reflex, and the weird feeling was weird and I didn’t like it.

    Didn’t help that the kiddo threw up in the backseat on the way to the test site. Twice. (He didn’t get tested, because there was no way in hell I was going to try and do that. Probably would have stabbed him in the brain. Yes, I know how anatomy works. I also know toddlers are squirmy mofos.)

  62. Not looking forward to a nasal swab. However, I have gotten my blood tested twice for free when I donated.

    Speaking of which, did you know you get tested for free when you donate blood? This is NOT THE REASON to donate blood, but it’s a nice bonus. And they need more blood donors. Better yet, if you’ve had Covid19, are recovered, and most especially have O- blood, they’d probably really love for you to donate convalescent plasma to save someone else’s life.

    That’s my charity pitch for today.

  63. @Heteromeles:
    The American Red Cross does NOT test you for COVID infection when you donate blood. It tests you for antibodies, meaning an infection in the recent past.

    Athena, I’ve been tested five times so far, and you’re not a wimp. Once in June with the brain-tickling one, which was so painful I kept jerking my head away (a reaction they were obviously prepared for) and almost couldn’t force myself to sit for the second nostril. That one left my nose feeling strange and raw for the rest of the day. Then three times in August-October, with the less deep nasal swabs, each time before I saw one of my parents. They still did both nostrils, and it still wasn’t comfortable, but nothing like June. I was also tested on Monday, once again the less deep version. All five have been negative. I’ve got some home tests coming for me as well.

    I’ve also had four antibody tests. I’m actually more comfortable with blood draws than nasal swabs. Two on my own in June, both of which were positive – the second test was to reduce the odds of a false positive. Those probably indicate that my Mystery Illness back in Russia in the winter was quite likely COVID. And then I had one each in August and October at blood donations, both of which were negative. So my antibodies have expired, though I hope my T-cells and B-cells are still in good form for swatting back virus. But, as I am reminded regularly, Immune Systems Are Complicated. Hence the continuing tests.

    Anyway: not a wimp. This test sucks.

  64. I have the dubious pleasure of having been tested….nine times now, I think? The first three were mandatory, pre-screening before surgeries. You could say it’s been an interesting summer.

    Since then, we have bubbled with another household of friends locally, and one of our conditions of maintaining the bubble is that both households get tested every 3-4 weeks, usually just one member of each house, but sometimes more than one. I also see a friend from out of state (they travel exclusively privately, so no contact), and we both quarantine for five days, test before and then quarantine and test again five days later. I’ve been tested a lot.

    I’m fortunate enough to live in a state and especially a county that took things seriously from the very beginning, and as part of that they put a serious amount of effort and money into ramping up free testing, and the county actively encourages people to do non-asymptomatic testing so that the data they collect actually means something useful.

    Doing that many tests at different facilities and across that many months of the pandemic (my first test was in the beginning of June), means that I’ve gotten to experience the process morphing and changing over time. The skill and technique of the person conducting the test matters, too. The first one was a proper nasopharyngeal swab, where they get all the way up in there, swirl it around a little and do it again on the other side. The person who did it was relatively gentle and quick, and I blinked a lot and teared up slightly and yes, had an irritated nose for a half-hour or so. The second time, at the same facility (drive-through process in a garage) the person was less gentle, and that one was harder to breathe through (and I recommend trying to breathe lightly through it), and my nose was irritated for a couple of hours.

    The next several tests were at the county fairgrounds free testing site, which was also a drive-up experience where the only contact is with the person in the tent who scans the QR code for the appointment and then swabs your nose. They are not doing the full original swab, because we have learned in the months since the beginning that it is not required. They don’t have to go as deep, but they do circle 10 times fairly high up in each nostril. It’s still briefly not pleasant but I really don’t notice any real irritation afterwards.

    The other place I have done the test is at a local hospital, which requires actually parking and walking inside, and they do what they call supervised self-swabbing. They hand you a glove to put on, then have you pull your mask down below your nose and take a swab they hold out to you in a tube, apply it to your own nose (and yes, you get up in there pretty good), and circle 10 times in each nostril. Then they hold out the sample tube, you place the swab in the tube, they cap it, you pull your mask back up and take of the glove and then sanitize your hands from the touchless dispenser and walk on back out.

    I definitely prefer the self-swabbing, as having the feedback of my own hand doing the process is MUCH better than having it done to me, and I don’t really feel bad afterwards.

  65. I’ve had two tests so far, and they were really different from one another. My first was very painful and I felt beat up for a long time afterwards, having the same issues you mentioned. The second was much gentler with no lingering issues. So I think the the technician and their tools can make a huge difference in the experience.

  66. I think they judge whether it’s gone in enough by your reaction!
    My eyes watered and i gagged, but it wasn’t as bad as the raging headache and sore throat I had at the time.
    It was also way better than a blood test as i don’t like needles. My mum had to jab herself 4-6 times a day for just the diabetes blood tests, let alone the insulin.

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