Normally, specimen collection swabs are not the type of thing that gets a lot of attention from the mainstream media. Of course, these aren’t normal times, so collection swabs have been front and center in recent months. With the need to rapidly scale testing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the average person has learned more about collection swabs than they ever expected.
If you work in healthcare, swabs are a part of everyday life – and it’s important to always have the right swab available for the job at hand. Let’s take a quick look at the leading options on the market today.
Types of Tips
There are two main components that make up a specimen collection swab – the tip and the stem. In this section, we’ll discuss the popular tip options, and we’ll take a closer look at stems below.
The purpose of the tip of a specimen collection swab is always the same, regardless of its material or design. The tip is meant to collect a sample from the patient. Once a sample is collected, it can be moved appropriately to the lab for analysis. Some of the leading swab tip types are listed below.
The design of a flocked swab tip is meant to collect as many cells as possible from the patient, even when only a small area can be swabbed. By using polyester fibers and a flocked design, impressive results are achieved, and testing can be performed for many different reasons.
This might be the first tip material that you think of when imagining a collection swab. While newer, high-tech materials have taken over more of the market, there is still room for a standard cotton swab in some applications. When swabbing the inside of the mouth, for example, the softness of a cotton tip is a good selection.
It is the absorptive nature of foam that makes it particularly qualified for some types of specimen collection. Liquids are easily collected by foam swabs, and plenty of tip sizes are available so the swab can be tailored perfectly to the task at hand.
You may be able to opt for a rayon tip in many of the same situations that would call for cotton. And, while rayon can offer many of the same performance benefits as cotton, it can come at a lower cost.
While the stem of the swab is not what will do the actual collecting of the sample, it will help the healthcare professional access the testing site. For instance, the preferred site for COVID-19 testing is the nasopharyngeal area. To reach that spot with a swab, a flexible plastic stem is the tool of choice. However, if flexibility is not required, such as when swabbing the cheek, it might be sufficient to use a wood stem.
Another point to keep in mind regarding swab stems is the breakpoint. Many tests require the tip of the swab to be broken off in a tube before transport to the lab. To make that easier, the stem is thinner in a strategic location, so it will break in that spot when bent. As you order your swabs, be sure to pay attention to the location of the breakpoint on the stem and compare that with the vials that will be used for transport.
A Look into the Future
3D printing is an exciting new technology that is making an impact in a variety of markets. With rapid prototyping possible, 3D printing technology allows for swabs to be designed and created in a very short period of time. This has been done for COVID-19 testing to help fill the shortage of swabs and is likely to be used moving forward in various applications.
Stock Up Today
Specimen swabs may garner added attention during a pandemic, but they are always important. Whether it is testing for COVID-19 or any of the countless other issues that can affect the human body, using the right swab is crucial. For quality specimen collection supplies at competitive prices, work with Path-Tec to fill your needs. Contact us today to learn more or to seek assistance from our knowledgeable team. Thank you for visiting Path-Tec!