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Covid-19: is it dangerous to do PCR or antigen tests often?

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You are in contact for the third time this week and tests are now part of your daily life. Does this pose a risk to your health? This is the question that torments many Internet users in the face of the multiplication of screening tests for Covid-19.

“Mild” and “serious” complications reported

For the past few days, a press release from the National Academy of Medicine, dating from April 2021, has been creating buzz on social networks, as noted 20 minutes (source 1). Entitled “nasopharyngeal swabs are not without risk”, it evokes the possible complications associated with “the multiplication and repetition of samples, sometimes carried out under unsuitable conditions”.

Indeed, some “benign” complications can occur, such as pain or minor bleeding. The Academy also evokes “serious complications which are beginning to be described in the medical literature […] in particular breaches of the anterior level of the base of the skull associated with a risk of meningitis“. Something to worry about those who are regularly tested and fuel rumors.

But can we really contract meningitis after such a sample? This is an extremely rare and even “crazy” complication.answers Dr Nicolas Boulanger, ENT doctor and cervico-facial surgeon interviewed by 20 minutes (source 2). “I don’t even see how such a breach could be made on this type of sample, unless there is a combination of factors: is it the sampler who made a wrong move and forced a patient who had a malformation or a pathology to lead to what seems to me to be an extremely rare complication?” asks the ENT specialist. And to conclude:

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Rest assured, there is virtually no risk of having meningitis after a PCR or antigen test.

The quality of the sample, essential to limit discomfort

The quality of the sample can have an impact on the occurrence of benign complications. If some samplers do not go far enough, others, on the contrary, can go a little too far and cause harm. “This gesture, repeated or poorly controlled, can actually cause pain and bleeding”, confirms Doctor Nicolas Boulanger.

“A lot of people have a deviated nasal septum, which can lead to obstruction. Multiplying the screening tests can cause repeated friction when passing the swab and thus cause small bleeding in the mucous membranes”, he specifies.

The National Academy of Medicine recommends:

  • to inquire, before any sampling, of any accidental or surgical history of the ENT sphere that could modify the anatomy of the nasal and sinus cavities, in particular interventions concerning the septum, the inferior turbinate and the sinuses of the face;
  • of do not place the patient’s head in hyperextension during sampling, but keep it in a natural position, the chin parallel to the ground;
  • introduce the swab horizontally following the floor of the nasal cavity and never deviate it upwardstowards the base of the skull.
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