Whether you are traveling, work face-to-face with the public, or just want to be mindful of those in your life who are vulnerable to severe illness, testing yourself for COVID can offer you peace of mind.
If you believe you have been exposed and want to prevent spread to others–whether or not you show symptoms–an accurate COVID test will help you make plans accordingly.
Molecular Tests and Antigen Tests
Molecular testing for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is highly sensitive to detecting the virus. The level of sensitivity refers to the frequency with which a test will accurately detect positive results for those being tested, meaning it is less likely to report a false positive. A molecular test works by looking for the genetic material of the virus.
Antigen tests are another way to test for COVID by identifying pieces of COVID-19 protein in the provided sample by swabbing your nose or throat. These tests do need a higher level of the virus present in the sample than molecular tests in order to confirm a positive result.
Antigen testing is commonly used for rapid results, especially in situations where fast results are required. You may have had to use an antigen test before traveling, returning to work, or if your job conducts regular monitoring and screening.
PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests were adopted early in the COVID-19 outbreak to detect infection and are considered a reliable test to confirm whether or not an individual has contracted COVID-19.
Samples for PCR tests are collected with a nasal swab and are usually performed by a nurse, physician, or technician at a COVID-19 testing site. The sample is then sent out for lab testing, and depending on the capacity of the lab and your location, it can take a few days to get back results.
PCR tests are molecular tests that look for the genetic material of the COVID-19 virus, which means it will also indicate a positive result in individuals who show no symptoms.
Taking an antigen test at home can be much more convenient than electing for a PCR test. Antigen tests, also known as rapid tests, can be performed just about anywhere, such as the doctor’s office, at a pharmacy, or at home.
Results are usually reliable and take just a few minutes, but there is the chance of receiving false-negative results when testing at home. You may take a rapid test too early after exposure, for example, to detect the virus. If you are asymptomatic, it can also result in a false negative.
Following up with a PCR test after a rapid test will offer the most accurate confirmation of whether or not you have COVID-19.
Which COVID Test Should You Choose?
To get the most accurate diagnosis, a molecular or PCR test will definitively determine a positive or negative result. However, a PCR test may not be readily available to you, and results can take several days to report back to you.
A rapid test may offer you immediate peace of mind, but it is important to keep in mind that a negative antigen test may not be accurate, especially if you are asymptomatic.
Until you can confirm an accurate negative test after exposure, you will want to take precautions to prevent further spread, such as isolation, wearing a mask in public, and thoroughly washing your hands.
If you still need information on which COVID test is the most accurate, give us a call during normal business hours. If that’s not an option, use our online contact form and we’ll contact you as soon as we can.