How Accurate are COVID Tests at Home? What to Know After Thanksgiving Meetings – NBC Chicago
After spending time with family and friends at Thanksgiving gatherings this week, more and more people are looking for ways to easily test for COVID-19 infection at home.
But how accurate are the coronavirus tests at home?
There are a number of options for the home now, the last of which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last month. However, concerns were raised after some tests were recalled due to false positive results.
Here’s what you should know.
How accurate are the home tests?
The most accurate form of the COVID test is a PCR test, although currently no approved home tests offer this method and rely on antigen testing instead.
According to Dr. Nimmi Rajagopal, vice chairman of the Department of Family and Community Medicine for Cook County Health, the accuracy of the test “depends on the scenario.”
“Of course, all tests have a ratio of false positives or false negatives, and those tests fall in the same range,” she told NBC Chicago. “So it depends on what you’re testing for and what the risk is.”
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Home tests will miss some infections and, on rare occasions, will incorrectly indicate an infection. A popular test misses about 15 out of 100 infections – these are referred to as “false negatives” – and gives about 1 in 100 people who are not infected a false positive result.
Many factors play a role in the effectiveness of tests, including when and type of test. She recommends that people with persistent symptoms and known exposure who get a negative test continue to isolate and monitor and have another test in a few days or contact their doctor for more information.
“So if someone has symptoms and gets a negative test, it depends on the severity, right? If you have severe symptoms, we don’t want you to just do a home test, ”she said. “We want you to call your doctor’s office and make sure they have an opinion because there are of course other things like the flu that can mimic or have similar symptoms. But if you have symptoms and they … “are a little mild and persistent and you use the test and it comes back negative. We want you to take the precautions and then test again in three to five days. And that’s why most of these kits actually will supplied with two tests. ”
Other health experts agree.
“These tests must be used wisely,” Cole Beeler, director of symptomatic testing for the COVID-19 Medical Response Team at Indiana University and assistant professor at the IU School of Medicine, told NBC News. “If you’ve had a high risk exposure and / or are symptomatic and test negative, it may still be worthwhile to get a formal test in a hospital laboratory.”
Where can I get a home test kit and how does it work?
Test kits are available at drug stores without a prescription, and a box of two tests typically costs around $ 25. Swab, test solution and instructions are included in the scope of delivery.
Adults and teenagers can test themselves. An adult can test a child as early as 2 years of age. How-to videos on product websites can be helpful.
Most tests require wiping both nostrils about half an inch long so it can tickle but not hurt. You will get a positive result if the test detects a viral protein in your sample.
Is one home test better than the others?
The longest available test is the BinaxNow test, which can be found in major stores like Walmart, Walgreens, Target, and others. But according to the FDA, there are currently nearly a dozen over-the-counter tests approved for at-home results.
Most recently, the authority issued an emergency approval to the Celltrion DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Home Test.
According to the FDA, the test can be used by people with COVID-19 symptoms and does not require a prescription. It can also be used for serial testing by people with no symptoms, which means the test is done twice over three days.
Chicago’s top doctor has said the antigen home COVID tests are both accurate and convenient.
“Especially if your child or you have symptoms, this is a very, very good test,” said Dr. Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Allison Arwady during a live Facebook event in August. “If you don’t have symptoms, it’s still a good test. And you can just take it home and have a result in 15 minutes. It’s like a pregnancy test – you’ll see it straight away.”
Arwady was referring specifically to the BinaxNow tests.
“The BinaxNOW self-test opens the door for Americans to buy an accurate and affordable test on their own terms, when and where they need it,” said Andrea F. Wainer, executive vice president of Abbott’s Rapid and Molecular Diagnostics business. in a statement at the time. “Together with vaccines and like-minded partners like Walgreens, we can help people get back to doing what they love – like spending time with friends and family.”
The FDA first issued emergency approval for Abbott Labs’ home, over-the-counter, and non-prescription use rapid COVID-19 test in March.
Customers can self-administer the test with a short nasal swab and review the test results in 15 minutes.
According to the manufacturer’s instructions for use, people using the test should test themselves twice with at least 36 hours between tests. The test can be used on children aged 2 years and over if the samples are taken from an adult, and on anyone aged 15 or over.
“If someone is really experiencing symptoms and you’re not sure, you may still need to stay home and / or get a PCR test, but I highly recommend these home COVID tests,” said Arwady. “They are approved for children, you know, who are very young and self-administered, and I think it is very helpful to have them available at home by this time.”
However, people who test negative should remain cautious, officials said.
Are the tests reported to health authorities if they are positive?
Those who test positive are asked to follow the latest CDC guidelines and share the results with your doctor, who is responsible for reporting your test results to the state health department.
Arwady previously said that this process likely doesn’t happen with every test.
“All of these negatives are realistically not reported,” said Arwady. “We don’t count, you know, it’s a fiction that we’ve ever counted every COVID test.”
She added that although many home tests are not reported, positive results are likely to be made available to health care providers and then health authorities.
What is the difference between home tests and home tests?
Home collection tests involve taking a sample from your home and then sending it to a laboratory for results.
At home testing allows the results of a sample and the results are available within minutes.
What about false positives?
The FDA issued a warning in early October about the potential for false positives from some of Ellume’s home-made COVID-19 tests.
The tests were sold at various retailers nationwide.
“In the past few weeks we’ve seen an increased likelihood that Ellume COVID-19 home tests of certain lots will give a false positive,” the company wrote in a statement.
The company also said, “This issue does not affect the reliability of negative results and is not the subject of this recall.”
A manufacturing problem is cited as the cause of the problem. The affected test kits are being pulled from store shelves.
The FDA recommends contacting your health care provider, emergency care provider, or other COVID-19 testing site and requesting a COVID-19 molecular diagnostic test if you received a positive test result with any of the affected lots of the Ellume COVID-19 home test in the last two weeks and have not yet received a molecular diagnostic follow-up test to confirm the positive test result.
But, according to the FDA, “all tests can produce false negative and false positive results”.
“People with positive results should self-isolate and get additional care from their health care provider,” the agency said in a statement. “People who test negative and have COVID-like symptoms should see their doctor as negative results do not rule out COVID-19 infection.”
It remains unclear whether vaccination status plays a role in the effectiveness of a test.
Rajagopal said no data are currently available to answer the question, but noted that false positives and false negatives can occur in any person regardless of vaccination status.
Will experts use these tests for their own family gatherings?
“We’ll do quick tests to check everyone before we get together,” says Dr. Emily Volk, president of the College of American Pathologists, planning a Christmas dinner with six vaccinated family members. “We’ll do it when you get through the door.”