A Brief Respiratory Panel Test Explanation

You might have heard of respiratory panel tests before, or maybe you've never encountered this notion. This test has become more popular recently, though, so you should probably know about it.

We'll talk about respiratory panel tests in the following article. We'll cover some of the basics and discuss why you might need to get one.

What is a Respiratory Panel Test?

If a doctor talks to you about a respiratory panel test, they might call it a respiratory pathogen panel test. These tests try to discover pathogens in your respiratory tract. Pathogens are viruses, bacteria, or other organisms that might cause either mild or severe illness.

When we use the term “respiratory tract,” we mean body parts that involve breathing. These body parts must act correctly, or else you'll experience symptoms that could indicate serious problems in some cases.   

Respiratory panel tests usually test for 20 pathogens, give or take. If you feel sick and you're having breathing trouble or any other respiratory distress indicators, you might go to a doctor so they can run one of these panels. It's a minimally invasive procedure.

Why Would You Get One of These Tests?

If you're experiencing respiratory distress or discomfort, that might clear up on its own. In fact, that usually happens. However, every once in a while, you may have a respiratory illness that sticks around longer than usual.

You can see a doctor, and they'll tell you whether they think you should get one of these tests. Generally, you won't know to get one until a medical professional tells you to do so. If you're a medical professional yourself, that's possibly the only time you might know to do it without a doctor mentioning it to you.

How Does the RP Sample Procedure Work?

RP stands for respiratory pathogen. If you take one of these tests, you'll submit a sample that a lab will run tests on to determine whether you're dealing with a few common pathogens. If the lab discovers one, your doctor will know how to treat you from that point forward.

You will need to submit to an RP sample procedure. It's not exactly fun, but it's not all that bad. You can either do a swab, which involves sticking a bit of cotton on a stick into your nose and swirling it gently around, or else you can do an aspirate.

With either option, you're trying to get a sample from the nasopharynx, the throat's highest part. It's behind the nose and connects to your ears on either side.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have tested for the virus this way. The US government and other entities have made these swab tests widely available. You can administer the test yourself at home, but some people prefer to turn the sample in to a lab so they can figure out for sure what's going on with them.

What's the Difference Between the Swab and Aspirate Method?

We've described the swab method, where you stick the cotton up your nose and rotate for a bit until you get a usable sample. Fewer people know about the aspirate method.

With the aspirate method, you insert a saline liquid solution into your nasopharynx. You then suck out that liquid with a tube that you insert into one nostril.

As you might imagine, most people prefer the swab method. They don't enjoy either one, but either process takes just a few moments. At that point, you can either send the sample to the lab or test for the pathogen yourself if you're trying to figure out whether you're Covid-19-positive.

What Can This Test Reveal?

Most people know about this test in 2022 because of the Covid-19 outbreak. Many people have experienced Covid-19, and they've tested themselves with an at-home kit. Others have gone to a doctor's office or similar medical facility to see whether they've contracted Covid-19.

This test can reveal much more than whether you're Covid-19-positive or not, especially if you send the sample to a lab so they can do a complete work-up on it. For instance, they can find out whether you have the flu. They can even identify different flu bugs since the lab knows about most of the common ones and their biological signatures.

The test can find out about whether you have the respiratory syncytial virus, the adenovirus, or the human rhinovirus. Most of these aren't all that serious, though you may need to combat them with specific medications, and you can't get some of them over-the-counter in a drugstore.

What Happens if You Get a Positive Result?

If you take one of these wide-ranging panel tests and it comes back positive, there's no need to panic. You can talk to your primary doctor, and they can recommend a treatment course.

However, you should know that if you feel ill and you test negative, it might mean you still have a respiratory infection, but it's not showing up on the panel results yet for some reason. Doctors don't always know why that happens. Some people contract Covid-19 and feel ill, but they'll still test negative a few times in a row.

You might have to undertake multiple panel tests to figure out what respiratory illness you have. You might have a rare pathogen that doesn't appear on one of the basic tests. If the doctor suspects that, they may try other methods to determine your optimal treatment course.

How Long till You Get Results?

You can usually expect test results in a couple of days. With at-home Covid-19 tests, you can often get a result in as little as 15 minutes.

Most people have taken these tests at this point because of Covid-19's widespread status in the US and abroad. If you haven't taken one yet, you might have to after you travel. Even if you don't feel ill, it's best to take the test to make sure you didn't contract Covid-19 or another respiratory infection.

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