You can now buy rapid antigen tests in supermarkets and pharmacies to test yourself at home for COVID-19 in about 15 minutes.

You’ll get your results much sooner than standard PCR tests, which most of us will be familiar with.

Here’s how to make the most of these rapid antigen tests, and to increase your chance of a meaningful result.

Read more: Rapid antigen tests have long been used overseas to detect COVID. Here’s what Australia can learn

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Remind me, what’s a rapid antigen test?

A rapid antigen test detects proteins from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in a sample. You can collect the sample yourself at home using a nasal swab or saliva.

The test most of us will be familiar with, the polymerase chain reaction or PCR test, is different. It detects genetic material from the virus. PCR samples are collected by trained health workers, and are processed in the lab by trained technicians.

Rapid antigen tests can be done anywhere by any reasonably competent person. You can get a result in about 15 minutes, depending on the test, versus hours to days for a PCR result.

However, rapid antigen tests are not as reliable as PCR tests. You are more likely to get false negatives (the test indicates you don’t have COVID-19 when you do), or false positives (the test indicates you have it when you don’t).

However, the accuracy of rapid antigen tests improve if you do them when you have symptoms or within seven days of a potential exposure.

To read the full article click here.

Written by Thea van de Mortel , Professor, Nursing and Deputy Head (Learning & Teaching), School of Nursing and Midwifery, Griffith University.

Article published by The Conversation on the 22nd November 2021.