What Is a Swab Kit?

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  • Written By: Cindy Quarters
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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Swabs are used to collect body fluids or cells in order to perform certain tests on them. One common reason for such tests is to determine the amount of alcohol in a person’s system. Cell collection for the purpose of determining the a person’s paternity also requires the use of a swab so that the necessary cells can be sent to a laboratory for testing. The swab, sterile casing and any necessary testing devices are all packaged together into a swab kit.

One of the major advantages of using a swab kit for any kind of testing is that it is non-invasive. There is no need to draw blood to complete the test. Done properly, a swab test is considered to be very reliable. Since a swab kit is highly portable, it can easily be used for testing anywhere it is needed, including in the field, at home or in an office environment.

Many companies use an alcohol swab kit to test employees for the consumption of alcohol while on the job. This is of particular importance for employees who drive trucks, taxis, delivery vans or other vehicles for a living. The mouth is swabbed for 30 to 60 seconds with the sterile swab that is part of the kit, then the collected saliva is placed on an indicator device that provides a reading of the person’s blood alcohol level.


A drug indicator swab kit can be used to test for a variety of other substances as well. Some of the more common substances that can be tested for include methamphetamine, opiates, amphetamines, marijuana, phencyclidine (PCP), benzodiazepine and cocaine. The use of a swab test is much cleaner and easier than performing urinalysis testing, although a urinalysis may be used as a follow-up test to a positive result on a swab test. The drug test kit includes a sterile swab and an indicator that will show the presence of any of the target drugs.

Another common type of swab kit is one that is used for checking paternity. In this case, the results must be determined in a laboratory, so the kit contains a sterile swab and a case in which it is returned to the lab for analysis, but no meter or other indicator device. If the information is for personal knowledge only, the kit may be used by the persons involved and mailed to the lab for analysis. If it is a legal matter, the collection and handling of the sample must be done by an approved collection site and chain of custody of the swab kit must be maintained. Whatever the purpose of the testing, the use of a swab kit greatly simplifies the collection and handling of samples.


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