Over the last 18 months, the ways in which we are able to diagnose COVID-19 have rapidly evolved. One of the more recent developments is the availability of at-home tests for people to collect a specimen on their own and receive a positive or negative result.
Emil Lesho, DO, an infectious disease specialist with Rochester Regional Health, explains how the tests were developed and how to use one.
At-home tests – also called home tests or self tests – are done using two different methods: antigen or molecular testing.
Antigen testing uses a sample to detect the presence of a specific viral antigen. Molecular testing uses a sample to detect the genetic material of the virus. A positive result in either test indicates an infection.
Each test kit contains materials and instructions for a person to collect a sample – usually via a nasal swab or saliva specimen. The sample is then left to sit until results appear. With most at-home tests, this is within 15-30 minutes.
Some tests require a second swab or sample within a certain amount of time to confirm the results.
Tests sold at pharmacies and other retail locations have been approved for sale by the FDA. A list of approved tests is available online.
There are currently eight FDA tests given emergency use authorization available through over-the-counter purchase at most pharmacies and retail stores.
“Each test has gone through rigorous testing and reviews to ensure it is as accurate as possible for people using it at home,” Dr. Lesho said.
All kits are at least 84 percent accurate when it comes to positive test results.
When it comes to negative test results, accuracy rates are 91 percent or higher.
Even with these high accuracy rates, using the tests too early or too late could mean getting a false negative. You should get a PCR test done at a doctor’s office, urgent care, or other healthcare location to be more certain.
“The best method to prevent COVID-19 infection is to get vaccinated against the virus,” Dr. Lesho said.
Typically the cost ranges from $15 - 130.
Depending on whether your doctor prescribes an at-home test for you, the cost may vary.
If you get a positive test result on an at-home COVID-19 test, you should immediately call your primary care provider or an urgent care and schedule another test.
Isolate yourself from others as a precaution in the meantime.
The gold standard for COVID-19 tests are PCR tests. Most employers or organizations require a PCR test result.
If you have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine, schedule an appointment. They are safe, effective, and widely available at no cost.Make An Appointment
Read the latest numbers on coronavirus cases in the Finger Lakes and Greater Rochester, as well as local regulations and travel restrictions news.
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