What is the medical “Swab”?
A swab is a small stick with a patch of foam, cotton, or similar material mounted on one end. Swabs are useful for a variety of medical procedures like taking samples for culture or applying medication to mucous membranes.
Another use for a swab can be the gentle manipulation of tissue so a doctor can examine it. The hands may be large enough to obscure what the doctor is trying to see, and she can use the tool to gently push or lift the tissue without handling it directly. In cases where the doctor needs both hands free, an assistant can handle the swab as directed. Larger absorbent swabs are available for cleaning out fluids during medical procedures like lancing an abscess.
The material used in swab construction is usually hypoallergenic, and patients should not experience contact dermatitis when a doctor uses a swab.