JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – At-home rapid COVID-19 tests are out of stock at almost every store.
For around $25, you can get results in 15 minutes or less, but our question was how well they work.
“These tests are fairly good in symptomatic patients, so if you have a fever, cough, cold and you take one of these tests and you’re positive, you can be fairly certain you have COVID-19,” explained UF Health Jacksonville department of pathology and laboratory medicine medical director Matthew Feldhammer.
These rapid tests are antigen tests however, Feldhammer said the gold standard in COVID-19 testing is a PCR test.
These are the tests done at most health departments, and the turn-around time for results is a few days.
Feldhammer said PCR tests are almost 100% accurate.
There are a few options out there for COVID-19 testing at home, and while they all differ slightly, they are all antigen rapid tests.
The BinaxNow kit, which is the one we bought, contains two sealed test cards, two nasal swabs, and two dropper bottles. They are not meant to be for two people. One person is supposed to take both tests.
It seems simple enough -- until you are the one performing the test.
Since I want to be completely transparent, I made about three mistakes on the first testing kit, things as little as not holding droplet container right, and turning the swab counterclockwise when it was supposed to be clockwise.
Feldhammer said if you are going to do one of these tests, read the instructions a few times first. Because performing the test wrong can lead to inaccurate results.
Feldhammer said these rapid tests are not as sensitive as a machine at detecting the virus.
Let’s break this down.
Feldhammer said if you are symptomatic and this test says you’re positive, trust the test and quarantine for 10 days until testing again.
If a test comes back negative, but you are symptomatic, it would be worth it to go get a PCR.
What about someone who has no symptoms?
“So, for instance, your kid’s in school, you get a notification that someone in his class tested positive, out of an abundance of caution you want to test your kid, and it comes back negative. That’s not a very accurate result,” said Feldhammer.
In the FDA’s instruction for use on the BinaxNow at-home test, it says:
“Negative results do not rule out SARSCoV-2 infection and should not be used as the sole basis for treatment or patient management decisions, including infection control decisions.”
At this point, most airlines will not accept these tests as proof for travel.
Abbott, the parent company of BinaxNow, also said this is for personal use only and doesn’t provide a documented test result that you can display when traveling.
However, check with your individual airline. Some carriers are partnering with do-it-yourself rapid test companies and basically doing a virtual visit with a professional while taking the test and those results meet the guidelines and are accepted. For example, United Airlines has partnered with eMed.
Feldhammer said the best way to look at the at-home tests is the same way you look at masks or social distancing -- it’s another tool in the toolbox in the fight against COVID-19.
For the record, the tests I took came out negative.
Feldhammer said all the brands are going to be antigen tests, so the accuracy of results are going to be similar. But, he said, if it comes back positive, it is very likely, you are positive. So make sure to quarantine and contact the health department so they can keep track of positive cases in our area.
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Original reference: Putting an at-home COVID-19 test to the test: What you need to know (news4jax.com)