You’ve probably heard a lot about COVID-19 testing since the start of 2020, including the fact that there are two different kinds of diagnostic tests to determine if you have an active COVID-19 infection. The quicker of the two kinds of tests is the COVID-19 antigen test, sometimes referred to as the rapid test. But how long does it take to get results for COVID19 antigen tests? Before jumping into antigen test result time, let’s first review what antigen tests can—and can’t—do.
In short, yes. An active COVID-19 infection can be detected via two different types of diagnostic tests: antigen tests and nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs), which are more commonly referred to as molecular or PCR tests.
Antigen tests, otherwise known as rapid tests, use a nasal or nasopharyngeal swab to detect an active COVID-19 infection. However, antigen tests cannot show if you had COVID-19 in the past. Additionally, antigen tests may not detect an early COVID-19 infection, so some health care providers may order a molecular PCR test if your antigen test result comes back as negative but you have symptoms of COVID-19.
PCR tests use nasal swabs or saliva to detect an active COVID-19 infection. Like antigen tests, PCR tests cannot show if you had COVID-19 in the past. They are designed to test for an active infection. PCR tests are considered to be highly accurate, and therefore the test typically does not need to be repeated, except for in certain circumstances.
If you’re looking for a test that shows if you’ve had COVID-19 in the past, an antibody test is the only way to test for a past infection.
It depends on the type of test you receive. Some tests can provide results in minutes, while others may take hours or days, depending upon the type of test you receive and the lab the test is sent to.
One of the main benefits of an antigen test for COVID19 is how rapidly the test results can be returned. Antigen tests are most often used as point of care tests when seeking care from a medical provider, and authorized results can be returned in as few as 15 to 30 minutes.
Additionally, many over the counter and direct to consumer at-home antigen tests have been given emergency-use authorization by the FDA. Just like point of care antigen tests, some results can be seen in as few as 15 minutes. Other at-home tests do require you to submit the test to a lab, so it can take a few days to hear back with those. And while the speed of these tests can certainly provide quick peace of mind, it is important to understand that antigen tests, including at home tests, are not 100% accurate. Antigen tests are known to produce false negatives if taken too early or too late. If you’re symptomatic or unsure of when exposure took place, timing can be tricky. That’s where PCR tests can provide more clarity.
PCR tests do take a little longer to receive results because of the way the test is performed. Results can take up to three days, depending upon the lab where the test is being sent. However, there are many locations that offer same day results now. And while PCR tests can take longer, they are considered to be more accurate.
If you’re searching online for phrases like “I haven’t received my COVID test results,” you’re probably wondering what to do while you wait. No matter what test you receive, you should follow CDC guidelines while waiting for a COVID-19 test result. These guidelines vary depending upon your vaccine status, and are constantly changing in light of new COVID-19 variants. Please see the CDC’s website for the most up-to-date information.
Generally speaking, however, if you’re symptomatic or you know you’ve been exposed, it’s best to isolate while you wait for your results. The good news is, with quick testing, you shouldn’t have to wait long.
BioCollections Worldwide, Inc. offers quick and reliable PCR COVID-19 tests in Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico, and several other international locations. The current turnaround time for our PCR test averages 11 hours, so you can have reliable test results in just half a day’s time. Ready to get started? Learn more about COVID-19 testing with BioCollections today.