COLUMBUS, Ohio — This week our VERIFY team has received many questions about COVID-19 testing, including one from Bob Kruse.
He asked if nasal sprays or Neti Pots can affect the result on a COVID test.
- Does using a nasal spray or Neti Pot affect your COVID test?
- Dr. Joe Gastaldo who specializes in infectious diseases at OhioHealth
- Dr. Jessica Shepherd chief medical officer of Verywell Health
- Dr. Daniel Rhoads Section Head of microbiology at the Cleveland Clinic.
While COVID tests are manufactured in a way to make sure saline and other nasal products do not interfere with the results of a COVID test, more research is needed.
Here’s what we found:
To answer this question -- we need to separate nasal sprays from Neti Pots.
Let's start with the Neti Pot.
“So in the setting of using a nasal irrigation system, and that includes Neti Pots, bulbs, syringes, and even squeeze bottles, what you do in that context is, as you lavage or rinse out that area, you're also rinsing out, for example, of bacteria, other viruses and other things that are built up in that area,” said Dr. Gastaldo. “So theoretically, there is a possibility that if you are cleaning everything out and diluting things, it may impact a COVID-19 test.”
However, Dr. Gastaldo says more research is needed on this.
When it comes to nasal sprays, Dr. Rhoads points to information provided inside the BinaxNOW at-home antigen test kit.
"If you look at that package insert, they actually check to see if fluticasone or what's in Flonase, you know, causes interference with their assay,” he explained. “And they determined that no, it does not cause interference, meaning it doesn't cause falsely positive or falsely negative results."
Dr. Rhoads said generally no, a nasal spray or Neti Pot using a saline solution should not interfere with results of a COVID-19 test.
"Most tests should be able to still detect the virus because they should have such a high specificity or a high detection rate in the actual way that the test was built,” explained Dr. Shepherd.
So more context is needed to answer this question. When it comes to the claim that a nasal spray or Neti Pot could affect your COVID test -- there is no definitive answer because it depends on which type of test you use and -- more research is needed.
However-- for the second part of Bob's question asking if using some nasal sprays can prevent COVID -- research has been done. We can find that answer in a Cleveland Clinic Study.
The study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice in August 2021 suggests steroid nasal sprays may help improve outcomes in severe COVID-19 disease. So it cannot prevent COVID infection, but researchers found patients who use steroid nasal sprays are less likely to develop severe COVID-19 -- by as much as 25%.
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