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How to Use Rapid Test Kit for COVID-19

How to Use Rapid Test Kit for COVID-19

Since the early months of 2020, the Philippines has been battling with the COVID-19 virus. Fast forward to today, mass vaccination programs are in progress while several mutated strains are emerging around the world. There are two main ways to detect a COVID infection, by checking the viral proteins (present infection) or by checking antibodies against it (previously infected or exposed). In this article, we will elaborate on how to use the rapid test kit and how it compares to other tests.

What is the rapid test kit?

There are actually two types of rapid test kits. One is the rapid antibody test and the other is the rapid antigen (swab) test. If you are not familiar with the difference between antigens and antibodies, these tests may sound the same.

Simply put, an antigen is a protein that the virus (or other pathogen) has on its surface. When the immune system interacts with these antigens, certain white blood cells produce antibodies. So, when the body encounters the pathogen again, it will already have antibodies that can detect substances with the same antigen and send cells to attack it before it causes illness.

How to use rapid test kit

Rapid antibody test

This test uses a small blood sample, similar to blood sugar tests used by diabetics. A small finger prick is done and a few drops of blood are placed on the well of the test kit. After several minutes, the test results will appear and are interpreted by the doctor or medical technician.

This test detects the number of antibodies, IgG and IgM, in the blood. Because it takes some time for our bodies to create antibodies, this test should only be done after 7 days after suspected exposure. Taking the test too early can result in a false negative.

If you get a positive result, it means that you have been infected in the past, even if you were asymptomatic (no symptoms). However, even if you are confirmed to have antibodies against the COVID virus, it is still recommended to get vaccinated for better protection.

As biohazardous waste, the tests and samples need to be disposed of properly.

Rapid antigen test

This test is also called the rapid swab test or rapid lateral flow test. It requires a nasal or throat swab sample. If the sample contains viral antigens proteins, it will be positive.

Unlike the antibody test, the antigen test can detect currently infected cases. The antigen test is useful for catching asymptomatic cases who may otherwise not have gotten tested.

Remember: asymptomatic and mild cases can be just as infectious as symptomatic or severe cases of COVID.

If you get a positive result, this means you are likely infected regardless of your symptoms. However, an additional test such as the RT-PCR would be recommended for confirmation. A negative result does not automatically mean you are totally safe, so protective measures should still be observed.

As biohazardous waste, the tests and samples need to be disposed of properly.

Benefits of the rapid test kit

The biggest benefit of the rapid test kit over the RT-PCR test is, of course, its speed. Typically, it only takes 30 minutes or less from getting the sample to seeing the results. It takes several days to receive RT-PCR test results, especially if the lab is overwhelmed with many samples.

Another benefit of the rapid test is that it is less expensive than the RT-PCR test. The kits look similar to pregnancy tests and do not require sophisticated lab equipment and facilities.

However, it is important to stress that while the rapid tests are useful, they cannot diagnose COVID-19 alone. The RT-PCR test remains the gold standard when it comes to confirming a COVID infection.

Key takeaways

In summary, there are two different types of rapid COVID tests– rapid antibody and rapid antigen tests. Knowing how to use a rapid test kit for COVID-19 can help ease your worries or confusion regarding COVID testing. While these tests are widely available, never perform a test on yourself. Only have your samples taken and processed by trained healthcare professionals and wait for the official results.

Stay updated on the COVID-19 pandemic, here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


How do COVID-19 antibody tests differ from diagnostic tests? https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/coronavirus Accessed June 8, 2021

COVID-19 antibody testing https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/covid-19-antibody-testing Accessed June 8, 2021

Regular rapid lateral flow coronavirus (COVID-19) tests https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/testing Accessed June 8, 2021

Antibody Testing Is Not Currently Recommended to Assess Immunity After COVID-19 Vaccination: FDA Safety Communication https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/safety-communications/antibody-testing Accessed June 8, 2021

A GUIDE TO COVID-19 TESTS FOR THE PUBLIC https://www.rcpath.org/profession/coronavirus-resource-hub/guide-to-covid-19-tests-for-members-of-the-public.html Accessed June 8, 2021

Lab Advisory: Waste Management Guidance for SARS-CoV-2 Point-of-Care Testing https://www.cdc.gov/csels/dls/locs/2020/waste_management_guidance_for_sars-cov-2_point-of-care_testing.html Accessed June 8, 2021

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Written by Stephanie Nicole Nera, RPh, PharmD Updated Jun 09