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How to do Rapid Antigen Testing at Home?

There are many COVID tests to choose from, with there being more than 10 FDA authorized rapid antigen tests and quite the array of PCR tests, it can be hard to make a decision about which test to take and when. For that reason, it is beneficial to be educated on the differences between PCR and rapid antigen.

The first main difference is that PCR testing is generally significantly more expensive than rapid antigen COVID tests. This is attributed to PCR tests requiring that saliva samples be sent to a laboratory with trained technicians and specialized equipment.

For these reasons, PCR tests are able to detect the smallest amounts of the COVID-19 virus and are considered a much more accurate level of testing than rapid antigen tests. However, the many benefits of PCR add to the amount of time it takes to receive the test results, and it can take between 24 and 72 hours. In comparison, rapid antigen tests can be taken in the comfort of your own home and only require 15 minutes before reading the results.

Current at-home rapid antigen tests are easy and much less invasive than the original testing that was popular during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. These tests are widely used and are also authorized for adults to use with children as young as two years old.

By using rapid antigen tests often, risks associated with the virus can be mitigated. Antigen rapid tests can often be used as a valuable tool to manage life during the pandemic. Experts recommend using rapid antigen tests for school or work attendance, before and after large gatherings, and before seeing vulnerable individuals.

The BinaxNOW rapid antigen test has been used since August of 2020 and is the most studied and widely available rapid antigen test for the coronavirus. Each test comes with instructions, a swab, a solution, and a small testing reservoir. The following instructions explain how to properly use this type of test.

1. Wash or sanitize hands and make sure that hands are dry before starting. It is recommended to wear gloves, but they are not provided.

2. Remove the test card from the pouch and lay it flat on a table. Be sure that there is a blue line in the result window area labeled “control.” If it does not show a blue line in the control result window, do not use the test.

3. Open the test card so that it lays flat on the table. Do not touch the test strip.

4. Remove the dropper bottle cap. Hold the dropper straight (not at an angle) over the top hole on the right-hand side. Drop six drops of fluid into the top hole.

5. Open the swab package and swab both nostrils carefully. Insert the entire soft tip of the swab into one nostril around ½ or ¾ of an inch.

6. Using medium pressure, rub the swab over all the inside walls by doing five big circles for 15 seconds. Use the same swab for both nostrils.

7. Insert the swab into the bottom hole of the test card, until it is visible in the top hole.

8. Turn the swab to the right clockwise, three times to mix the swab with the testing solution.

9. Peel the adhesive tape off the right-hand side of the test and close the test card. Please down on the right-hand side of the test card to seal the test.

10. Set a timer for 15 minutes and view your results. Only review results from 15-30 minutes after completing the test.

11. If there is any line present (even a faint line) in the sample window, the test is positive.

Many rapid antigen test kits come with two tests, with the intent being you take both tests. The tests should be taken between two and three days apart for the most accurate results. Experts also recommend when testing before visiting someone vulnerable that you wait until right before because results can change quickly.

As new variants of the virus continue to emerge, the effectiveness of rapid antigen tests has somewhat seen mixed reviews. The FDA’s research suggests that the current COVID-19 tests may not be as sensitive to the Omicron variant of the virus. 

For this reason, it may be more likely to have a false-negative test result. Keeping this in mind, it can be a good idea to order tests before you need them and keep at least two on hand for future use.

If you have recently started showing COVID-19 symptoms, you should isolate and wait at least a day before testing. This is to avoid wasting a test when antigen levels aren’t at their peak.

When testing while symptomatic, if you test negative you should test again a day or two later to confirm the results. Similarly, after traveling, attending a large gathering, or known exposure, experts recommend testing two or three days later. And again, if negative testing again every other day or so.

AnyPlace MD offers a variety of COVID-19 testing solutions, both on an individual level and for businesses. For rapid antigen tests, we offer BinaxNOW, Indicaid, and Carestart. Call today to speak with a representative about our test availability. 

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E. Randy Eckert, MD
Medical Director

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Brenda Thompson,
Vice President of Human Resources

With over 20 years of Human Resource and Operations experience, Brenda brings her expertise and specialized skill set to Dental Health Management Solutions, AnyPlace MD and AnyPlace Audiology.  Her successful career includes working as an Executive Director in senior living communities and advancing her Human Resources career to Vice President of Human Resources. Brenda has a specific style and approach to balance risk-management and employee satisfaction.

Shane Stevens - AnyPlace MD- COVID-19 Testing and Treatment Solutions

Shane Stevens

Throughout my career, I have served and volunteered with several organizations including serving as an advisory board member for Concordia University Texas, an annual participant and supporter of Hounds for Heroes, the Special Olympics, and many others. I have also served as a deacon at the Austin Baptist Church since 2009. Shane earned a BS in Long-Term Health Care Administration from Texas State University in San Marcos.