As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizes surge across the country, demand for at-home testing has also increases. As a result, experts are offering advice to help Americans get the most out of testing. At-home test kits, also known as rapid antigen tests, have the benefit of speed and convenience (producing results within 15-30 minutes). However, they are also less accurate than lab-based PCR tests.
Knowing how and when to use your tests improves the chances of an accurate result. Here’s what the experts have to say:
When should I test?
Tests rarely pick up the virus in the first day or two after exposure because the virus hasn’t had enough time to replicate in the body. If you suspect you have COVID-19, wait to test until 3 days after you were exposed to the virus. If you’re not sure when you were exposed, you may want to until wait 1 day after symptoms develop (depending on how many tests you have). Even if the test is negative, continue testing every 24-48 hours until day 6 or 7. Studies show that repeat testing greatly increases the odds of detecting the infection.
How should I test?
It’s critical that the test is performed correctly. Be sure to read the instructions and follow the directions. carefully. You should also avoid using expired kits, as these are not reliable. Tests are generally good for two years after the manufacturing date. In addition, on rare occasions, the control line on thes test appears very faint or not at all. This is a sign that the test is faulty and should be thrown away.
At-home tests are a great tool to protect yourself, your family and your community. Knowing how to get the most out of these kits can help you stay healthy, especially as respiratory illness season approaches.