How Accurate Are At-Home COVID Tests?
As of April 2023, over 230 million Americans had been vaccinated against COVID-19. However, regular testing remains an essential part of reducing COVID infections. Since the development of at-home COVID testing, it is easier than ever to get tested in the comfort of your own home.
At-home COVID rapid tests are vital to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Even if you are not currently exhibiting symptoms of COVID, it is beneficial to have a few tests on hand. These tests provide quick, accurate results when stored and used correctly.
What Are the Different Types of COVID Tests?
There are two types of COVID testing currently available.
- Rapid Antigen Tests detect protein fragments from COVID-19. They require a nasal swab or a saliva sample. While medical professionals may perform these tests at their facilities, they are also available for at-home testing. You will have results in as little as 15 minutes. Before purchasing a COVID test, ensure that the brand is FDA approved.
- PCR Tests are performed in a medical environment with the assistance of a healthcare professional. During the test, they will swab the inside of the nose and send the sample to a laboratory. The average delivery time of test results is 1 to 3 days.
What to Know Before Taking a Rapid Antigen Test
The primary difference between rapid antigen tests and PCR tests is the variation in results. Although at-home rapid COVID tests are beneficial in detecting and preventing the spread of COVID-19, they lack the sensitivity of PCR tests.
It’s highly unlikely that you will receive a false positive result after taking a rapid antigen test. However, false negatives are slightly more common. If you receive a false negative result, it typically means that your viral load isn’t great enough for the test to detect the presence of COVID-19 within your system. As a result, there is a decreased likelihood that you will transmit COVID-19 to others.
For the most accurate results, it’s best to test yourself on the same day you come into contact with anyone that is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. It is also beneficial to take another test one to two days after receiving a negative test for increased accuracy.
You may require a PCR test from a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing the following:
- If you are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, it may be beneficial to seek testing from a healthcare provider. If you are fully vaccinated or received a negative test result from at-home testing, consider obtaining a PCR test from a healthcare provider.
- If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19 but have experienced exposure to COVID-19, take a PCR test to confirm your status. It is also recommended that you quarantine for a minimum of 5 days, or until you receive your results.
How Accurate Are At-Home COVID Tests?
At-home rapid testing is ideal for people who want to know their status as soon as possible. At home-tests are 10-20% less effective than PCR tests, especially if you are asymptomatic. However, if your viral load is sufficient and your infection is contagious, the tests are just as accurate as PCR tests from a healthcare provider.
How to Take an At-Home COVID Test
Before taking an at-home COVID test, ensure that you have several tests available to perform multiple testing sessions if necessary. If you receive a positive test result, that means that the test has detected COVID-19 within your system, and you most likely have COVID-19. If you test positive, stay home and isolate yourself until you can receive advice from a healthcare provider.
If you receive a negative test result, you do not have COVID, or you do not have enough COVID proteins within your system for the test to detect the virus. In this case, it is recommended that you perform at least one other test 48 hours after the first test.
If you have a negative test result and believe you’re exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, consider taking another at-home COVID antigen test. It may also be beneficial to receive a PCR test from a healthcare provider.
How Do At-Home COVID Tests Work?
At-home COVID tests are similar to those administered by healthcare providers at doctor’s offices and testing sites. If the test detects the proteins related to the coronavirus, a positive result will appear in a few minutes. To obtain the most accurate results, you must store the tests correctly. Keep the COVID tests in dry, room temperature conditions because extreme heat or cold will reduce the test’s effectiveness.
Can I Use an Expired COVID Test?
Many people are unaware that at-home COVID-19 tests have a shelf-life, which states how long the test will function properly. Manufacturers measure the shelf-life from the date at which they produce the tests. Upon purchasing an at-home COVID test, check the expiration date on the packaging to confirm the test’s shelf-life.
Each at-home COVID test has a different shelf-life. While some tests expire within six months, other rapid antigen tests may last for as long as fifteen months. However, the shelf life does not dictate the test’s effectiveness because the FDA regulatory process only exists to determine the test’s expiration date.
Complete COVID Testing At Home with Countrywide Testing
If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID, conduct an at-home COVID test as soon as possible to protect yourself and others from disease. Consider stocking up on at-home COVID tests so that you’re prepared for any situation.
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When you need answers, Countrywide is there. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help!