Doing your first rapid antigen test? 7 tips for an accurate result

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You can now buy rapid antigen tests at supermarkets and pharmacies to test yourself for COVID-19 at home in around 15 minutes.

You will get your results much sooner than with standard PCR tests that most of us are familiar with.

Here’s how to get the most out of these rapid antigen tests and increase your chances of getting a meaningful result.

Read more: Rapid antigen tests have long been used overseas to detect COVID. Here’s what Australia can learn

Remind me, what is a rapid antigen test?

rapid antigen test detects proteins In one example, from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. You can collect the sample yourself at home using a nasal swab or saliva.

The test most of us will be familiar with, polymerase chain reaction or PCR Testing is different. It detects genetic material from the virus. PCR samples are collected by trained healthcare professionals and processed in the laboratory by trained technicians.

Rapid antigen tests can be performed anywhere by any reasonably competent person. For a PCR result, you can get a result in about 15 minutes, hours or days, depending on the test.

However, rapid antigen tests are not as reliable as PCR tests. You’re more likely to get false negatives (the test shows you don’t have COVID-19 when you do it) or false positives (the test shows you have it when you don’t).

However precision rapid antigen tests develop If you do these when you have symptoms or within seven days of potential exposure.

Read more: What is the difference between PCR and antigen COVID-19 testing? Molecular biologist explains

Why should we use one?

Rapid antigen tests are useful if you want to quickly check if you have COVID-19. For example, you may have a family gathering with many vulnerable, elderly relatives and you want to keep them safe.

You can also use a rapid antigen test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and can’t get a PCR test right away.

Read more: Rapid home antigen testing is on the way. But we need to make sure everyone has access.

Which test should I use?

Rapid antigen tests available for sale in Australia have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and website listings Tests approved for home use.

In general, they are divided into two groups. They test:

  • nasal secretions from a nasal swab or

  • saliva, spitting into a tube, or crawling into the mouth.

The TGA defines each approved test as “acceptable sensitivity”, “high sensitivity” or “very high sensitivity”.

Those with “very high sensitivity” are more likely to detect a true SARS-CoV-2 infection and use nasal swabs.

Read more: Goodbye, brain scrapers. COVID-19 tests now use softer nasal swabs

How do you do the test?

The tests come with instructions (and a QR code that links to a video). You should follow the instructions given to the letter to get an accurate result.

Depending on the type of test, you will receive a sample of nasal secretions or saliva that you place in a chemical solution.

Then, pour the chemical solution containing your sample into a indicator device – a bit like a pregnancy test. This indicates a positive result through a detectable color change.

7 tips to get an accurate result

These tips come from the analysis of the instructions on the TGA website on how to use approved rapid antigen tests. Here’s what to consider:

  • check expiration date. Do not use an expired test

  • some tests need to be 30 minutes at room temperature Before using. So plan ahead

  • If you are using a nasal swab, wipe your nose before collecting the sample. If you are using a saliva test, do not eat or drink 10 minutes before collecting the sample

  • avoid contaminating the sample. Whichever test you use, the instructions may ask you to clean a flat surface; wash or sterilize and dry your hands; and edit test items. Never, ever touch the commercial end of the swab. (soft tip that goes into your nose) for making it dirty

  • follow sample collection instructions to the letter. For example, with a nasal swab, you will be asked to insert the swab 2 cm, rotate the swab five times, and do this in both nostrils. After collecting the sample, the chemical enters the solution.

  • a place set the number of drops In the display device of the solution. Do not add extra “for good luck”

  • Read the results at exact time is recommended. For example, the instructions may ask you to read the result no later than 15 minutes and no later than 20 minutes after adding the solution. After 20 minutes the result may no longer be accurate.

  • What do the colored lines mean?

    There are two colored lines to look for. One is a C (control). This will tell you if the test is working properly. The other is a T (test) or Ag (antigen). And it is the combination of these that gives the result:

    • If the C colored line is not shown, the test is invalid. The test kit may have expired or you may not have taken the test correctly.

    • If the C-colored line is visible and the T (or Ag) line is not, your result is negative (you are unlikely to have COVID-19)

    • If both C and T (or Ag) lines are visible, your result is positive (you probably have COVID-19).

    What’s next?

    If you get a negative result and have no symptoms, congratulations! If you have a negative result but have symptoms do a PCR test make sure. Meanwhile, avoid contact with others.

    If you get a positive result, get one as soon as possible. PCR test to confirm and in the meantime, isolate yourself.

    Author: Thea van de Mortel – Professor, Nursing and Vice President (Learning and Teaching), School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University Speech

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