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Early morning salivary cortisol collection

We need to collect some saliva from you. This information explains what you need to do !


These instructions are for an early morning salivary cortisol collection. If your doctor has asked for a late night collection, please check the instructions for late night salivary cortisol collection. If you are unsure, and it is not written on your green request form, please get in touch with your doctor.

What you will need

Your nurse or doctor should have given you a green request form, and you should also have a testing pack from the laboratory. This should contain:

  • SaliCap plastic sample tube – there may be more than one, depending on what your doctor has asked for
  • straw(s)
  • sticky labels for the tubes
  • sticky labels for the form
  • self-addressed envelope to send the samples back to the hospital

An image showing the contents of the salivary cortisol testing kit

Before the test

On the morning of the test,  do not take any steroid medication before producing the saliva sample. This includes nasal sprays and inhalers. The steroid medicine can be taken as usual after the sample has been collected.

Before you start, make sure that you haven’t eaten in the last 30 minutes, and that you rinse your mouth out with water

You will use the straw to dribble down the small plastic tube to collect the saliva.


Please collect the saliva about 30 minutes after waking up in the morning. This helps us to get a more reliable test result.

Doing the test

When you are ready, follow these steps to collect the saliva sample:

  1. Get as much saliva in your mouth as you can – try pretending that you are sucking on a tasty lollipop!
  2. When you have enough saliva in your mouth, hold one end of the straw in your lips, and the other end in the plastic tube (as shown in the picture below). You will know that you have enough saliva in your mouth because you will want to swallow.

Illustration of child spitting into a small plastic tube

  1. Try to dribble slowly, so that most of the saliva travels down the straw and into the tube. It might go down the outside of the straw, but this is okay as long as it gets to the tube at the other end. When you first try getting enough saliva in your mouth and dribbling it down the straw it can be difficult – just take your time! Keep on doing this until the tube is over half-full – be aware that very bubbly saliva can make it look like the tube is more full than it actually is
  2. Snap the lid firmly shut on the SaliCap tube.
  3. Fill in the stickers which were in your pack with this important information including your: surname and forename, date of birth, and the date and time the sample was collected. Then stick this label on to the sample tube that you have just filled.

Illustration of small plastic tube and label with patient details written on it  Illustration of small plastic tube with label now wrapped around tube

  1. You will also need to fill out the dates and times on the second set of stickers, and attach these to the bottom right of the green request form.
  2. Keep your samples in the fridge until you are ready to send them back to the laboratory.

Sending the samples back to the laboratory

  1. Put the samples into the clear plastic pocket attached to the the green request form.
  2. Place this into the self-addressed envelope, and then send this to us via first-class post.
  3. Please post your samples as soon as you can after you have collected the last sample. Try to make sure that this is on a
    Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday to avoid samples arriving on the weekend, when the laboratory is not fully open.
  4. If you live locally, you can hand deliver the samples back to the Clinical Chemistry laboratory at the Sheffield Children’s Hospital. This is on B floor of the Orange Wing, and should be where you picked up your testing pack.

If you have any questions about collecting your sample or testing, please contact the laboratory on 0114 2717 307. Please talk to
your doctor if you have any medical questions about why the test is being done.


Clinical Chemistry
0114 271 7307

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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