When it comes to selecting an at-home COVID-19 test, the amount of information can be overwhelming. It’s important to understand that no test is perfect, and careful consideration is crucial. Rapid antigen tests are convenient and can help facilitate the safety of those around you – however, they are not foolproof and carry a risk of false negatives. At CityHealth, we’re here to help you explore the differences between PCR and antigen tests, their pros and cons, and provide guidance on choosing the most appropriate option.
Understanding the Tests
- PCR testing is widely considered the gold standard for COVID-19 testing. This method involves amplifying the DNA of the virus, even in minuscule amounts, resulting in exceptional sensitivity and accuracy. However, PCR tests require specialized equipment and take longer to process. While they work with smaller viral loads, they provide reliable results.
- Antigen tests detect viral particles present in the liquid sample obtained from the individual. These tests rely on the interaction between the antibodies on a test strip and the viral particles. Antigen testing is fast and easy to administer. However, one limitation is that they require a sufficient amount of the virus to generate a positive result. Consequently, during the early stages of infection, antigen tests may produce false negatives.
Choosing the Right Time for Testing
To protect your loved ones and seek prompt treatment, it is essential to identify a COVID-19 infection as early as possible. Following exposure, it takes a day or two for the virus to multiply and for your body to react. Rapid antigen tests can detect the virus, but they may yield negative results for 4-6 days. Contagiousness during these early stages, with low viral load, remains uncertain. For greater certainty, rapid PCR tests are recommended.
“PCR is the gold standard in testing to diagnose Covid. For me, antigen testing is okay if I don’t have access to a PCR. Even with a negative antigen test, I assume I am contagious until confirmed with a PCR test.” – Dr. Barbara Kilian
Accuracy and Repeating Tests
Research suggests that the accuracy of antigen tests increases as the infection progresses. To improve reliability, the FDA advises taking multiple tests over several days. If you suspect a COVID-19 infection and initially test negative, it is advisable to repeat the test after 48 hours. In the event of another negative result, testing again after two days is recommended.
Proper Testing Techniques
To ensure accurate results, it is crucial to follow proper testing techniques and instructions.
“It’s very important that you do your test properly. Make sure you have read the instructions on your test kit. Blow your nose before doing the test and ensure that you place the swab far enough into your nose“ – Dr. Barbara Killian
The Good News is . . .
While having antigen tests on hand is advisable, PCR tests are regarded as the gold standard in COVID-19 testing. PCR tests offer higher accuracy and can detect a lower viral load.
CityHealth recommends utilizing both an antigen test and an at-home PCR COVID+Flu A&B test for comprehensive screening. PCR test results are typically available within 24 hours of lab receipt. In the event of a positive result, CityHealth offers Telehealth COVID care treatment and facilitates the administration of the antiviral drug, Paxlovid.
Insurance coverage extends to COVID testing and care, including up to eight at-home antigen test kits per month. To ensure the well-being of yourself and others, consider ordering your Antigen Tests & PCR COVID+Flu Tests from CityHealth today.
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