How Accurate are COVID-19 Rapid Tests?

There has been a lot of doubt cast upon at-home rapid COVID-19 tests. However, they have proven to be highly effective and have allowed people to test themselves, isolate, not spread the virus, or fill hospitals unnecessarily.

Many people are still unsure how they work, though, what a rapid antigen test is, and when to use one. This post will tell you everything you need to know about COVID-19 rapid tests.

How Do They Work?

Rapid tests are essentially the most basic form of test, which detects the antigens, a type of protein, on the virus’s surface. These rapid tests are an indication and not necessarily a definite result like a pregnancy test.

However, if your test does come back positive, it is recommended that you isolate yourself and then re-test a few days later. On the other hand, if your test comes back negative, it is safe to assume you are most likely negative.

Rapid Test vs Doctors Test

The most common question people have is how do rapid tests compare to doctor-administered tests. PCR or polymerase chain reaction tests are usually far more accurate but take much longer.

Doing multiple tests may be necessary if you think you have been exposed to the virus but aren’t showing symptoms. While rapid tests can still be highly accurate, results can begin to vary depending on whether the patient is showing symptoms or not. The more symptoms you have, the more accurate the test is.

Who Should Test?

A rapid test is the best option for someone who thinks they have been exposed to the virus or for someone showing symptoms. One of the most important distinctions to make, though, is that you can carry the virus and not show any symptoms.

This means that people who work in jobs surrounded by large groups of people, like teachers or those in large offices, should regularly test, once a week at least.

When to Test

You should use a rapid test whenever you show symptoms of COVID-19 or think you have been exposed to the virus. There is also the question of when to use a rapid test and when to use a PCR test.

A rapid test is OK if you think you have been exposed and want to double-check your condition. You can test on the day and then a few days later to make sure. As mentioned, there is a slight chance it can come back negative, but only because you aren’t showing symptoms.

If you are showing symptoms or your rapid test results are inconsistent, then a visit to a doctor and a PCR test are going to be your best options. You will need to isolate while waiting for your results, but you will get the most accurate reading that way.

Multiple Tests

If you cannot get to a doctor or facility for a PCR test, it is recommended that you get multiple rapid tests made by different brands. This is the same logic used when buying pregnancy tests; various tests could have different thresholds, therefore, might produce different results.

This isn’t completely necessary but is still something to consider and remember, especially if you fall into the category of being someone who isn’t showing symptoms but tests positive. Once again, if different tests don’t offer a clear result, visit a doctor or PCR testing centre.

What to do if You Test Positive

If your rapid test comes back positive, you must notify your healthcare professional and follow their advice on isolating. You should also be clear as to what symptoms you have and how long you have had them.

Considering how quickly symptoms can become a severe threat to your health, be absolutely clear about how you are feeling with your doctor. They will give you the best advice on what to do and tell you if you need to worry or not.

As you can see, rapid tests are the game-changer we need to fight the COVID-19 virus. It has helped people find their status quicker and isolate and stop the spread much faster than before. Hopefully, if you have any doubts about them, they have been put to rest.


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