Virus Respiratory (Combined Throat and Both Nostrils) Specimen Collection Instructions

How to Collect a Combined Throat and Nasal Specimen for COVID-19 Testing

This step-by-step guide shows health care professionals how to use a swab to collect a combined throat and nasal sample for a COVID-19 test.

Duration: 2 min


NOTE: Nasopharyngeal (NPS) specimens are considered the best specimen type for detecting COVID-19 from respiratory specimens. There is evidence that a combined Oropharyngeal/Throat and Anterior Nares/Nostril specimen approximates the sensitivity of an NPS swab.

  1. Open the pouched seal pack and remove the specimen container from the package.
  2. Label the specimen container with the patient’s full name, date of collection and one other unique identifier such as the patient’s date of birth or Health Card Number. Failure to provide this information may result in rejection or testing delay.
  3. Complete all fields of the COVID-19 test requisition*: include, the patient’s full name, date of birth, Health Card Number (must match the specimen label), source of specimen, date of onset, date of collection, physician name and address, and clinical diagnosis.
  4. Aseptically remove the swab from the package.
  5. Collect the Orophayngeal/Throat and Anterior nares/nostril specimens following the procedure illustrated in the figure (below – for website) and (on reverse-for printed copies).
    You may also view an instructional video at
  6. Break swab shaft evenly at the scored line and replace cap to vial closing tightly. If there is no score line, refer to the cutting instructions in the Swab Cutting Guide provided with the disposable scissors so that the swab is at least 1-2 cm below the upper lip of the transport media tube.
  7. Place specimen in the biohazard bag with the fully completed test requisition placed in the attached pouch, so it is not exposed to the specimen.
  8. To maintain optimum viability, the specimen should be stored and transported at 2-8°C. If the specimen is expected to be delivered to the laboratory >72 hours post collection it should be frozen at -70°C or below and shipped on dry ice.

* For Non-COVID-19 Testing; use the PHO Laboratory General Test Requisition.

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To order kits or for more information

Effective September 10, 2020 – to obtain COVID-19 swab kits, please submit your order via the Ontario Health Digital Services page.

Updated 4 March 2021