The Difference Between PCR and Antigen COVID-19 Tests

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The Difference Between PCR and Antigen COVID-19 Tests

Since the pandemic arose in March of last year, many of us have struggled to know which test is the most accurate at detecting COVID-19. Although these tests are confusing, we can help shed some light on the difference between PCR and antigen COVID-19 tests and help you feel less stressed if you have this virus.

The Two Available COVID-19 Tests

Only two tests help determine whether you, a family member, or a friend has COVID-19. The two tests, PCR and the antigen test, are different in a few ways. The antigen test is a rapid test that can have results ready in 15 minutes. However, the PCR test is more thorough, as the doctor or nurse swabs the nose. The PCR test can detect whether you have COVID-19 within a few days, even if you are asymptomatic. A patient can use a PCR at-home test kit, or a trained professional can swab the patient.

What To Do About False Negatives and Positives

False negatives and positives are possible, and even early last year, many tests weren’t clear—there was a higher percentage of false negatives than false positives. The issue was that patients came to testing sites earlier instead of waiting to see if they developed symptoms. As the tests continue to improve, request that a patient gets retested if they show symptoms a few days after a test. This rating is low for false positives, so even when a patient reports a false positive, even on a rapid test, there’s a good chance that the patient has the disease.

What To Do With a Negative Antigen Test With Symptoms

If your test was negative, but you still show symptoms, you need to get a PCR test that can do a more thorough job of analyzing for COVID-19. The test takes a while to process, but it is helpful in many high-risk exposure cases. If a patient has been exposed to COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes, they’re considered high risk and need to get tested.

How To Prevent the Spread of CoV-2

You can do your role in stopping the spread of this disease by continuing to wear a face mask, sanitizing often, and maintaining six feet of distance when in social settings. Also, if you, a friend, or a family member is sick, stay home or wear a face mask if you need to go out.

If you feel fatigued, have chills, or suddenly lose your taste or smell, it’s vital to get tested. Knowing the difference between PCR and antigen COVID-19 tests can help you understand each test and its processing time better and help you find out if you have CoV-2 sooner.

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