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Tips for avoiding a rejected COVID-19 saliva test

January 15, 2021

Update June 14, 2021: Campus COVID-19 testing is now being conducted only by nasal swab.

The following message was delivered to students and employees from the Office of the Chancellor:

As the first week of the new spring semester testing wraps up, we want to thank you for your patience and dedication to helping us launch the new saliva-based COVID-19 testing process. Teams across the university are working hard to get everything ready for the start of class on Jan. 25 and our experience this week has and will continue to be incorporated into improving our collection processes.

We know many of you have already begun testing. While most tests have been able to be processed and results provided, some of you have been informed your sample was rejected. We know that this can be frustrating and are taking steps to try to avoid this outcome.

We have compiled below some suggestions for improving the chances of a successful test, based on what we have seen this past week. Please know that your participation and willingness to get tested has been critical to our efforts to develop this list.

The lab needs the liquid portion of your saliva to successfully run your test. Your saliva must be clear and not discolored, free of food and mucus, and cannot contain residues such as those from brushing your teeth or smoking.

In the hour before your test:

  • Do not drink (including water)
  • Do not eat
  • Do not brush or floss your teeth, or use mouthwash
  • Do not chew gum or smoke

You may also want to rinse or gargle your mouth with water to remove any discoloration (such as from coffee) or small pieces of food. Be sure to do this at least one hour before your test.

At your test:

  • Follow these tips for producing enough saliva.
  • Pool your drool under your tongue.
  • Keep your face covering on before you begin to drool into your funnel and tube; replace it between deposits.
  • Slide the tip of your tongue along your gums behind your teeth to stimulate your salivary glands and deposit this saliva in the funnel.
  • Avoid swishing saliva in your mouth or pulling saliva from the back of your mouth.

These are the most common reasons saliva samples are rejected by the lab:

  • Too much saliva (you need a 1.0 – 1.5 mL of liquid saliva, not including bubbles, but no more)
  • Too little saliva (below 1.0 mL)
  • Discoloration
  • Visible clumps of food, mucus or other residues like toothpaste

Note: Bubbles will be in your saliva funnel and your sample. As long as the liquid drains to the bottom and you have enough, that is fine. If you notice any of these things as you are submitting your sample, ask to start over again with a new tube. It’s better to redo your test at your scheduled appointment than have to do it over again the next day.

Here are answers to other frequently asked questions this week.

Find more information, including answers to additional questions, on the Covid Response site.

If you have a question not answered on the FAQ, please contact us for more information.

Tags: covid-19