At-Home Covid Tests
How Accurate Are They Really?
Even though we are a year and a half into living in this pandemic, there is still a lot of confusion over COVID testing. When should you get tested? Where should you get tested? How long until you know your results? The new phenomenon of at-home COVID testing is seen as a solution to these questions. At-home testing is supposed to be a safe and reliable way to know if you have the virus or not so you are able to determine your next steps.
First, you should know that there are two different kinds of at-home covid tests:
- PCR Test. A PCR test is when you collect a sample at home and mail it out to a lab to get your results.
- Rapid Antigen Test. A Rapid Antigen Test is when you collect a sample at home, and then use the materials provided to you to test the sample yourself and get your results within minutes.
The CDC recommends that before you collect an at-home sample, you should:
- Wash your hands with soap.
- Clean the surface where you will perform the test.
- Do not open any test materials until you are ready to start.
- Open the box and follow the instructions carefully and exactly.
- If you do not collect the specimen exactly as instructed, your result may be incorrect.
- Do not reuse any materials.
Recently the demand for at-home tests has surged, with people returning to work and school and searching for a more convenient way to test for COVID. While having this information is always useful, how accurate are the at home tests? It is important to note that most at-home COVID tests are actually antigen tests, which detect if you have an active COVID-19 infection. If you take a rapid antigen test in the earliest phases of the virus, the test may return a false-negative result. In fact, recently an Australian company called Elume had to recall their at-home COVID tests because of a “higher than acceptable” rate of false positives as determined by the FDA.
Is it even worth it? Many people hear that there can be false-positive results, and ask if it is even worth it to use at-home COVID tests. The short answer is yes. If you are using the tests to make sure you are not infectious before going to a social gathering, or sending your child to school, Doctors say the at-home tests are worth it. If you get a positive result but have no symptoms, it is encouraged you test twice to confirm your result.
Testing for COVID is always worth it. Tests administered by health care providers are more accurate due to less human error, however at-home tests are better than no tests. Health & Wellness also provides free COVID testing for all students and staff.