Even after a year of spending life in quarantine of varying levels, the spread of COVID-19 shows no signs of stopping. As we try our best to stay at home and stay safe, there are still numerous ways of contracting the virus – from receiving parcels from a deliveryman, going to a nearby store to buy food, or even just receiving mail from our doorstep, so there’s no time to be complacent. Since we’re on our own in this country, let me share my nasal swab test experience so you’ll know what it feels like, how to schedule one, and where to go in case you start showing even slight symptoms.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, dry cough, tiredness, diarrhea, and body pain. Some lose their sense of taste and smell, develop skin rashes, experience headaches, and the worst combination – chest pains and difficulty in breathing. I’ve experienced some of the symptoms a month ago and took the liberty to get tested for my peace of mind and the safety of other people at home.
I took a nasal swab test or RT-PCR (which means Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction) test, which involves getting swabbed inside your nose and throat. There are two more types of tests – antigen and antibody test, but the RT-PCR one is the most accurate, as far as I know.
WHERE TO GET TESTED?
There are different hospitals and stations for swab testing but I specifically looked for ones that can provide results right away as my anxiety was already through the roof during that time. Some of the places I’ve considered include the Philippine Airport Diagnostic Laboratory (PADLab) in Pasay, Perpetual Help Medical Center in Las Piñas, and Makati Medical Center in Makati City.
In my case, I went to Makati Medical Center since they’re open for walk-ins and my mom knew someone who got their results in less than 48 hours.
HOW MUCH IS A SWAB TEST?
Since I took my swab test at Makati Medical Center, I had to pay Php 5,000 for both the throat and nasal swab. Other clinics or hospitals charge at least Php 3,500 for scheduled visits. RT-PCR tests done within your household will cost more than Php 5,000 and will require at least a minimum of 3 people to be swabbed, if I remember correctly. Best to contact your preferred clinic to be sure!
WHAT IT FEELS LIKE?
I’ll start from the beginning. There’s a crippling anxiety building up inside of me as I lined up outside Makati Medical Center. There’s a lane where people will be asked to line up as a hospital staff distributes contact tracing sheets and/or a QR code for those with smartphones. You’ll need to fill out the form before being allowed to enter. They’ll measure your body temperature and give you alcohol at the entrance.
You’ll be instructed to go to a testing area which looks like a driveway-turned-testing site at the back of the hospital. This one’s just behind Mary Grace in case you’re familiar with MMC. Here’s how it looks like:
By the time I got there, I felt a bit more relaxed since no one else was being tested. That was around 10 AM and I had to figure out where to go first and where to go next on my own. Don’t be afraid to ask the nurses as they’re very friendly. I was asked to fill out forms – contact tracing forms included, before being asked to pay at a dedicated window for their cashier. After receiving my receipts and a copy of other forms, I was asked to go to the swabbing booth.
This is where things get… uncomfortable. Samples had to be taken from my nostrils and at the back of my throat. It’s so uncomfortable but I would say the nose swab was already near painful. I unconsciously teared up, as you can see in the photo. I was supposed to take a video to show people how “brave” I can be, but my hands grew weak during the process. The swabbing part was quick but the amount of discomfort that it may leave will last for minutes. If ever you’ve experienced getting chlorinated water up your nose while swimming, it’s similar to that, except it stings for a longer time. It lasted over 10 minutes for me, I was pressing that side of my nose for the entire ride home.
People who undergo swab testing are prohibited from going out after procedure. Strict home quarantine is advised while waiting for the test results (and I highly discourage everyone from going out anyway, unless you need to attend to something important). After less than 48 hours, I was finally able to access my results via Makati Medical Center’s website, and that’s it. End of anxiety… at least for a while.
Now, I’m writing this not to discourage you to take a swab test, but to let you know one of the possible scenarios to expect. I have been watching videos about this and a lot of people are saying that it doesn’t hurt, which made me expect that it’s going to be a chill process. I guess it will depend on the person conducting the swab test and your pain tolerance. My dad already took a lot of swab tests (he’s a frontliner) but he never felt pain – not even once!
If you don’t want to risk experiencing the “pain” of getting swabbed, then the best solution will be to keep yourselves safe from the virus, stay at home and stay safe as much as possible, sanitize everything you can, wash your hands regularly, take a bath everyday, wear your face masks whenever you go out, and the most important step — GET VACCINATED.