The Citizens Handbook
DIY Sniff Test for COVID-19

Not feeling well? Wondering if you have the coronavirus? Wondering about your kids, parents, patients, or pupils? Testing for COVID-19 is the first line of defense against the pandemic. Unfortunately testing has been erratic, time-consuming and far below the levels required to contain the pandemic.

One of the widely reported symptoms of infection is the loss of the sense of smell. Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have developed an alcohol sniff test to quickly screen people for COVID-19. Most of those infected cannot smell ethyl alcohol at concentrations lower than 25%, unlike those who are free of the virus.
The stiff test will not work for people who have no or a reduced sense of smell, those with a sense of smell impaired through surgery or accident, and those with clogged up nasal passages.

An easy version of the NIH sniff test.
  1. Get a small bottle of unflavored vodka with 40% alcohol.
  2. Carefully mix 5 tablespoons of vodka and 3 tablespoons of water – or 100 mls of vodka and 60 mls of water.
  3. Dip a cotton pad (like those for removing makeup), or a folded paper towel into the mixture.
  4. Hold the pad about 3 mm (half the width of an ordinary pencil) from the end of your nose – and sniff.

If you can smell the alcohol, you're okay!
If you cannot smell the alcohol, you may be infected. Wear a surgical mask at all the times when near others (including family members), until you can get a PCR test from a medical testing facility.

If you run a school, a meat-packing plant, or retirement home, you may want to do a lot of testing – and need a lot of 25% alcohol. To figure out how much water to add to various amounts of any starting concentration, use the online dilution calculator.

On-the-ball public health authorities might make tiny foil-wrapped towelettes available everywhere, wetted with 25% alcohol. This would make regular day-to-day screening available everywhere.

Let's get this pandemic under control!

See also our detailed summary of research on masking not distancing.

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The Troublemaker's Teaparty is a print version of The Citizen's Handbook published in 2003. It contains all of The Handbook plus additional material on preventing grassroots rot, strategic action, direct action and media advocacy. You can get a copy of The Teaparty from bookstores, Amazon or New Society Publishers.