What You Need to Know About COVID-19 Home Tests

December 21, 2021 1:02 pm Published by

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, a medical professional was the only option to administer a COVID-19 test and send it off to a lab. Today, additional testing methods—including COVID-19 home test kits—make testing for the infection easier and more convenient.

Understanding Test Types

There are two main types of diagnostic tests for COVID-19:

  • Antigen tests: Also called rapid tests, antigen tests use a nasal swab to collect a sample. Results are usually available within 15 to 30 minutes. While positive results on a COVID-19 rapid test are usually accurate, it’s possible that an antigen test won’t detect an early COVID-19 infection or one without symptoms. If you have symptoms and the test comes back negative, you might need to follow up with a molecular test.
  • Molecular tests: Also called nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), these COVID-19 tests are considered the most accurate. The test is done using a nasal swab or a saliva sample, and it can be performed at a testing site or with a home collection kit. Molecular tests often require a lab to complete, which means it can take anywhere from under an hour to three days to get results, depending on where you get the test. The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are very accurate tests that are commonly used at testing sites, are a form of molecular tests.

Both antigen and molecular tests are available as at-home tests for purchase with or without a prescription at many pharmacies and retail stores. Some home tests, called self-collection kits, require that you send a sample to a lab. Other self-tests can be completed at home and show results in minutes.

Are Coronavirus Home Tests Reliable?

When you carefully follow the instructions on your home test, results have been proven to be accurate. However, no available tests are error proof, and there’s always the possibility of getting a false positive or a false negative. False negatives happen most often with antigen tests. If you receive a negative result but have symptoms, check with your healthcare provider to see if he or she recommends getting a molecular test to verify your results.

At-Home Testing Tips

To increase your chances of getting an accurate result with a home test, follow these tips:

  • Closely follow the instructions included with your test. Perform all steps in the order listed.
  • Check the expiration date on your test. If the test has expired, don’t use it.
  • Before you begin, clean the area where you will perform the test.
  • Leave the package closed until you are ready to do the test.
  • Wash your hands before collecting a sample.
  • Be sure to read the results within the time frame given in the instructions.
  • Never reuse any parts of a test.

Questions about COVID-19 symptoms? Find a primary care provider who can offer guidance about COVID-19 and other health conditions.

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This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center

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