The Dos And Don'ts Of Your COVID-19 Test

What do you need to know before your COVID-19 Test? Whether this is your first test for covid, the last time you had a corona virus test was in 2020, or you just aren't sure what to expect this time around, take a look at the dos and don'ts of Covid testing.

Do Know Which Covid Test You Need  

There isn't one test for Covid-19. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the two primary Covid tests are antigen and nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). Antigen tests are also known as rapid tests. The CDC notes that these Covid tests may provide results in as little as 15 to 30 minutes. While an antigen test can pick up a current infection, you may need to take more than one to get the most accurate results. 

PCR tests are common NAATs. These tests can detect viral genetic material and are usually sent to a lab. This means you may not get quick results from a PCR test. Even though you won't get immediate results, NAATs (such as a PCR) are often more reliable than the antigen option, according to the CDC. But if you have had a recent Covid infection (within the last 90 days), you could still test positive on a PCR test. This would not necessarily mean that you have an active infection or are contagious. 

If you need to provide proof of negative results for entry into an event or for travel purposes, make sure you know whether you will need an antigen or PCR test. 

Don't Test Too Early

Were you exposed to Covid? Even though you want to know whether you have the virus as soon as possible, you may need to wait to test. The CDC recommends that you wait to test until at least five days after known exposure to Covid—unless you have symptoms. Count the day of exposure as day zero. Asymptomatic people (those without symptoms such as a fever, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, headache, body aches, or other known signs of Covid) could get a false positive if they test before the five-day mark. 

Do Ask About Face Coverings And Other Precautions

What precautions does the testing site require? If you have symptoms or were exposed to Covid, you could spread the virus to the testing center staff or to other patients. Wear a well-fitting mask that complies with the testing site's requirements. Some centers may ask patients and those accompanying patients to wear an N-95, KN-95, or surgical mask.