Skip to main content

Going for a PCR COVID-19 test

Follow these simple steps when you are planning to go for a COVID-19 test
Last updated: September 28, 2022
Tests can tell you if you have COVID-19 right now and are potentially infectious to others. You may get a PCR test from a health care provider or you can use a rapid antigen test to test yourself at home.

On this page, you will find information about going for a PCR COVID-19 test.

Before a test

What to know

  1. If you are going for a mouth rinse and gargle test, review the information on how to do the test and practice. This is particularly important for children.
  2. Do not eat, drink (even water), chew gum, brush teeth, vape or smoke for at least one hour before the mouth rinse and gargle test. This could affect your test results.
  3. Make sure to have the date of birth and the Personal Health Number (if they have one) of anyone being tested.


Watch the videos below about what to expect:
You can practice the swish, gargle and spit technique with salty water at home before going for a test. Do not swallow the salty water or talk while you practice.

How to make salty water for practice

Mix ½ teaspoon (2.5mL) of salt in 1 cup of warm water to dissolve and cool to room temperature.

If you live in an area with a Boil Water Advisory, boil water for at least one minute and then add the salt and allow to cool to make the salt water. If you live in an area with a Do Not Consume or Do Not Use Advisory, use bottled water to make the salty water solution for practicing.

Find test centre

Visit our Where to get tested page to locate a test centre near you.

During a test

There are currently 2 main ways to perform viral PCR tests for COVID-19 in BC:

Nasal swab

The nasal or nasopharyngeal (NP) swab test involves inserting an approximately 10 cm long, very thin probe through the patient’s nostril and into the back of the nasal cavity. The test takes about 5 seconds to complete.

The nasal or nose swab is used for younger children, people with a strong gag reflex, or those who may not be able to follow the swish, gargle and spit instructions. There are no special preparations needed for this test. 

Mouth Rinse and Gargle testing 

Mouth rinse and gargle sample collection is available to both adults and school-aged children at community collection centres. 
Read the handouts with instructions on how to do the test:


After a test


  • If you get a PCR test, you will need to self-isolate while you wait for your results. This means you should go directly home after the test and stay home from work and school or and do not see visitors.  

Test Results

  • Visit the test results page to learn how to get results by text, online or by phone. If you would like to receive a text message result as soon as it becomes available, sign up right away. Parents can use this service to receive results for their children.
  • Find out what your COVID-19 test results mean. 


Tab Heading
SOURCE: Going for a PCR COVID-19 test ( )
Page printed: . Unofficial document if printed. Please refer to SOURCE for latest information.

Copyright © BC Centre for Disease Control. All Rights Reserved.

    Copyright © 2024 Provincial Health Services Authority.