An at-home COVID test posed a life-threatening danger to one U.K. woman after the kit’s cotton swab nearly punctured her intestines when she inadvertently swallowed it.
Bobby Lee, a mother of one in the northeastern England town of Durham, decided to take a rapid test after returning home from a night shift feeling sick, the New York Post reported last week.
Although testing kits instruct users to swab their naval cavities, Lee decided to swab the back of her throat.
A recent social media trend encouraging people to swab their throats rather than their noses might be to blame.
“When I swabbed the back of my throat, I sort of gagged,” Lee said told the London-based South West News Service, according to the Post.
“The stick twanged in my mouth and got stuck at the back of my throat, with the swab down my throat and the end stuck in the roof of my mouth in the back.”
When Lee attempted to remove the swab, she realized that it was stuck.
Struggling to breathe and fearing for her life, Lee drove to an emergency room.
Having never encountered a case like Lee’s before, medics decided to perform emergency surgery on her to retrieve the swab.
“It had gone all the way into my tummy. The pictures they took with the camera down my throat even showed it near my intestines,” Lee said, according to the report. “It had to come out of my mouth though, as if it had gotten into my intestines, it would have punctured them.”
“It was really scary,” she added. “It could have ended up fatal.”
The push to swab the throat instead of the nasal cavity started in response to reports of individuals testing negative for COVID-19 with a nasal swab test but positive with a throat swab.
Well, there it is. Today, with the “wrong” (i.e. cold) symptoms and after a string of negative LFTs, I finally took Twitter advice and swabbed my throat as well as my nose (no mean feat with that diddly stick). If you think you might have COVID, consider adding the throat sample pic.twitter.com/YKihOKh6mE
— Prof Jennifer L. Rohn (@JennyRohn) December 27, 2021
The unique symptoms of the COVID-19 omicron variant may be the cause of the false negatives, Dr. Michael Daignault, an ER physician and chief medical adviser for Reliant Health Services, told KXAS-TV in Fort Worth, Texas, in January.
“The omicron variant, we’ve seen that it’s causing sore throat and nasal congestion, and so if you miss a good sample from the nose and you swab the back of your throat, it increases the accuracy of the test,” he said.
Although throat swabs may produce more accurate test results, Lee’s case illustrates the danger of self-swabbing the throat at home.
The Food and Drug Administration discourages throat swabs because they are “more complicated than nasal swabs — and if used incorrectly, can cause harm to the patient,” according to KXAS.
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