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Clinical COVID-19 Test or At-Home Test?

by | Dec 23, 2023 | Uncategorized

The number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in Georgia has dropped from more than 5,000 positive patients in January 2022 to about 1,100 in September 2022. While positive COVID-19 cases are on a downward trend, the need for reliable testing remains.

There are several circumstances in which testing may be necessary or, at least, recommended. These include:

  • You’re experiencing symptoms
  • You were exposed to someone with coronavirus
  • You plan to travel abroad
  • Your workplace requires proof of a negative test

With the growing number of FDA-approved at-home test kits available, you may be considering this as a convenient option.

Our COVID-19 testing specialists serving Gwinnett County break down the difference between clinical and over-the-counter (OTC) testing to help you make an informed decision.

Understanding the Two Main Types of COVID-19 Tests

There are two primary ways to test for a SARS-CoV-2 infection. Both methods require a sample, typically a content swab, from the patient, but only one looks for the presence of coronavirus at the molecular level.

PCR Test

A PCR, or polymerase chain reaction, test amplifies DNA sequences to detect a very small amount of coronavirus material in the sample from an infected person.

How it works: Because the coronavirus consists of RNA—a single-stranded molecule—a lab technician converts it to DNA (double-stranded), then makes millions of identical copies to be analyzed in a test tube. Results are usually ready in 4-5 business days unless you’ve taken a rapid test, which provides answers within 24-48 hours. If the results return true positive, the virus was detected. This method is nearly 100% accurate. Researchers can also detect other pathogens such as influenza, tuberculosis, and HIV using this testing strategy.

Antigen Test

This test looks for COVID-19 antigens in your system. Antigens are a protein from a virus that prompts your body to defend itself with antibodies.

How it works: An antigen test is simple to administer yourself: Place a saliva sample on a test strip that reacts like an antibody. In 15 minutes or less, a line will appear on the strip indicating you’re positive for COVID-19. Antigen tests are about 80% accurate, according to the FDA. The drawback is that antigen tests present several uncontrollable variables. Because this type of OTC test requires the user to mix the saliva sample in water to activate the test strip, the proteins become diluted, which can send mixed signals. Additionally, this method doesn’t isolate the coronavirus the way a PCR test does to prevent other viruses from interfering in the assessment.

When You Should Get a Clinical COVID-19 Test

When you’ve been exposed to someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, it’s crucial to take a PCR lab test within three to four days. Test sooner and you could yield a false-negative result. Because lab tests are more accurate, you should seek an appointment within three days. If you’ve tested negative with an at-home test but experience symptoms, seek a second opinion with a lab test.

PCR testing may also be necessary for international travel and pre-surgical assessments.

When You Should Take an Antigen Test

If you need results and need them now, an at-home antigen test is a good option. In as little as 15 minutes, you can determine whether you should isolate or carry on business as usual. Antigen tests are especially helpful if you plan on visiting family and friends, some of whom may be elderly or immunocompromised. If you’re not experiencing symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, runny nose, or congestion, you can be at least 80% sure you’re not compromising the health of anyone around you.

If you decide to self-test:

  • Find an FDA-approved test kit
  • Closely follow the manufacturer’s instructions, including the number of times you may need to test
  • Treat negative tests as preliminary results and seek a PCR test if you experience symptoms

Qualified COVID-19 Testing Near You

{Sub:BusinessName} takes the guesswork out of COVID-19 testing, giving you the accurate information needed to keep you and those around you safe. We perform both PCR and antigen testing to give you peace of mind. Rapid (antigen) testing through our skilled providers ensures tests are administered accurately while giving you immediate answers. Likewise, our PCR testing provides the most reliable results available, delivered to you in two to five business days.

{Sub:BusinessName} makes testing simple in Gwinnett County. Schedule your appointment by calling {F:P:Sub:Phone} today.

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