When you have started to experience symptoms that resemble that of a common cold, you may be concerned that it could actually be a COVID-19 infection that is just in its beginning stages. Even if you don’t have symptoms, you may need a test before going to visit your family or if you’re going on a trip. To get tested, you and millions of other people have relied on various types of COVID tests, namely PCR and antigen. While both have advantages and disadvantages, it’s important to know which one will be best for you and your situation.
If you want a COVID test that is virtually highly accurate, you should undergo a PCR test. PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction and this test analyzes a sample to see if it contains genetic material from the virus. Highly sensitive and extremely accurate, a PCR test is designed to detect the slightest amounts of coronavirus present within a person’s sample. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 or may just be starting to feel bad, this test can give you accurate answers.
While a PCR test is considered to be the gold standard of COVID testing, an antigen test can also be beneficial in that you can do it at home, rather than having to go somewhere else to have medical or health department personnel perform the test. While its results are accurate, it is not as accurate as a PCR test. Also, for an antigen test to be extremely accurate, you’ll need to already be symptomatic or have a large amount of the virus in your system. Comparatively, a PCR test could pick up a low-level infection possibly before people become infecious to others. This is also something to consider if you are concerned about a family get together coming up soon and you want to isolate and prevent spreading before you become more symptomatic or infectious to others.
Depending on where you live and how quickly you want to get tested, you may need to go to a clinic for testing. With that being the case, you may need to drive many miles to get the test you want. Some hospitals provide both tests but in most cases, they have a limited amount of tests. With that being the case, it is important that you contact the clinic or facility prior to getting there. In addition to what tests they have available, you may be limited by the hours that they have tests. Some clinics have open hours where anyone can go without an appointment at that time. Alternatively, you may need to make an appointment ahead of time. Of course, if you have the option to make an appointment, that can help ensure that you get seen instead of risking waiting for hours only to be told that they finished the testing for the day or perhaps ran out of the tests.
When deciding which COVID test you should take, how quickly you need results could be the deciding factor. If you opt for a PCR test, you’ll need to go to another location to get it, since it can only be done by trained personnel. But most importantly, getting your test results could take anywhere from as little as 12 hours to as long as four or five days. If you take an antigen test, the results could be less accurate, but you would get the results of the test in as little as 15 minutes. This is an especially important consideration when scheduling travel. For example, many airlines require negative covid test within 72hours of the trip. Additionally, some locations such as hospitals or nursing homes may use rapid testing to ensure that people are covid-free as they are coming in. That way they can visit their loved ones with minumum concren.
The Cost Factor
While some COVID testing has been offered for free, many people have had to pay for testing. If this is the case, you should take the cost factor into consideration when making your decision. A PCR test can cost up to $100, while an antigen test kit will cost less than $20. That being said, insurance may change the cost to you as well. Many insurance companies are paying for tests if you are symptomatic or if your doctor recommends it. With that being the case, it’s ideal to contact your insurance company before ordering a test or going to a testing location. Additionally, your employer may also provide coverage for a test so be sure to check with your employer for what they are willing to cover.
Depending upon how quickly you need results, how you are feeling, and whether or not you perhaps have travel plans or will be around others who are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, making sure you select the proper test for your circumstances will be a way to keep you and others safe. If you have been exposed to COVID or are concerned that you may have been, it’s ideal to isolate yourself from others until you get the test results back. There are some doctors that recommend testing as soon as possible whereas others recommend that you get testing only if you become symptomatic. There is a lot of contraversy surrounding this so do additional research and talk to your doctor for recommendations.