How effective is the lateral flow COVID-19 Antigen test?

Lateral flow antigen tests have been the most common form of COVID-19 testing for a little while now.

They are easy to get your hands on, can be done at home, and give you a result in a short amount of time.

However, some people still aren’t entirely sure how they work, when to use them, and how effective they are. Here is everything you need to know about the lateral flow antigen test.

What is a lateral flow test?

In simple terms, a lateral flow test is similar to a pregnancy test. It is a way to process a sample and send back a fairly accurate result in a few minutes. These tests aren’t as accurate as laboratory tests, but they are a great way to get instant results.

The biggest benefit of lateral flow tests is that they have mostly cut out the need for laboratory tests that are more expensive and take longer to do. While lab tests will be needed in some cases, lateral flow tests are sufficient a lot of the time.

How do the tests work?

The test works in a reasonably simple way. It is designed to react to the presence of COVID proteins or antigens and then send back the result. Swabs are taken from each nostril, mixed with a solution, and then the solution is placed on the test.

Even though tests and manufacturers vary, the way tests are done is essentially the same. These tests are also brilliant if you think you have recently been in contact with the virus, as the proteins will still be present in your nasal passage.

Reliability

The biggest question that gets asked is how reliable are these tests? Both scientists and manufacturers will tell you that while these tests are great for detecting COVID, no test in medicine or science is 100% accurate.

This can be down to something tiny like a slight manufacturing problem. Considering millions of these tests have been made on a big enough scale, they can’t all be 100% accurate.

However, these tests are still the best for quickly finding out if you have the virus or not and have already been proven to be incredibly effective in stopping the spread of the virus.

Who should test?

What is brilliant about lateral flow tests is that you can get them almost anywhere, and therefore anyone who thinks they have been in contact with the virus can and should test. That is the answer to who should test, any and everyone who thinks they have been in contact with the virus.

Considering symptoms change from person to person, many people don’t show any symptoms at all in the early stages of the virus. Therefore, it is imperative to test anyway so you can know your results sooner rather than later.

When to test

When to test can also be quite tricky. If you test too soon, your results could be less accurate as there hasn’t been enough time for a potential infection to take a slight hold. Testing too late is almost pointless as if you are showing symptoms, you are more than likely infected.

The best strategy would be to test the day you think you have been exposed and then a couple of days later. This will give you a better idea of your status, allowing for initial results and time to pass. If you test positive again a few days later, it is safe to say you are most likely infected.

Differences between manufacturers

As mentioned before, antigen tests are mass-produced and produced by multiple manufacturers around the world. This means you should treat them similar to a pregnancy test and results.

While most are highly reliable, it is still important to remember that no test will ever be 100% reliable, and if need be, you should get tests made by another manufacturer to be sure. Sometimes this isn’t necessary, though.

Most countries still have rules in place saying you need to isolate if you test positive, meaning taking multiple tests isn’t needed since a positive result is enough. However, if you need a definitive result, take multiple tests, and if you can wait for lab results, you can do that too.

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