As Americans scramble for at-home tests to find out if they’re infected with COVID-19, some experts are suggesting they should swab their throat, in addition to their nose, to better detect the omicron variant.

The advice comes as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cautioned some rapid antigen tests may be less sensitive at detecting the highly contagious variant. The at-home tests are done with a nasal swab and the FDA urged people to continue to use them as authorized, including following the instructions when it comes to collecting a test sample.

“The FDA has noted safety concerns regarding self-collection of throat swabs, as they are more complicated than nasal swabs — and if used incorrectly, can cause harm to the patient,” Jim McKinney, a spokesperson for the agency, told TODAY in a statement.

But because people who are exposed to omicron appear to get sick faster, “this means that there is a chance the virus isn’t yet growing in the nose when you first test,” tweeted Dr. Michael Mina, a former assistant professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health who now works as the chief science officer of eMed.

The “virus may start further down. Throat swab + nasal may improve chances a swab picks up (the) virus,” he wrote last month, adding it “does likely improve sensitivity.”

The hashtag #SwabYourThroat has showed up on Twitter, with users sharing their experiences of testing negative when swabbing their nose, but positive when adding the throat swab.

Epidemiologist Eric Feigl-Ding is among experts who have been suggesting making that change. He pointed to a study that found omicron replicates much faster in human airways than the delta variant, but slower in lung tissue.

Based on the evidence he has seen, Feigl-Ding said he would “definitely” do a throat swab if he were to test himself for COVID-19 at home.

“The fact that (omicron) replicates differently in different tissues means that you might have to sample different tissues,” Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists and a former faculty member at Harvard Medical School, told TODAY.

“When the FDA authorized these tests, they were authorized for pre-omicron use … the dynamic is so fluid and I think FDA just needs to catch up on this.”

It’s not that an at-home test won’t pick up omicron in the nose when swabbing there, it’s just that it might pick it up half a day or day later, he added.

Saliva swabs may be helpful, too

Swabbing the throat is done by many other countries, Feigl-Ding said, pointing to an instructional video by the UK Health Security Agency that shows how to take a combined throat and nose swab.

The throat sample is usually taken first, followed by the nose sample. Frequently, many countries have had their swabbing technicians use the same swab for both places, but some countries use two different swabs, he noted. People are generally instructed to not eat or drink for 30 minutes before a throat swab.

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