10 Things to Know About COVID Testing
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” – H.P. Lovecraft
Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 234 million COVID tests have been administered. Many of those tests have been given to returning customers, so to speak – frontline workers, essential workers, people with underlying conditions, and others who require more regular monitoring of their health. That means there’s a whole group of Americans who still haven’t had a COVID test, and the unknown can be scary. That’s why we’re sharing 10 things to know about COVID testing.
1. While they might look the same, there’s a difference between screening and diagnostic testing. If a test is being administered to someone who has no reason to believe they’re sick, and isn’t showing any symptoms, that’s called a screening. A great example would be if you’re feeling just fine, but get a test before going over to Grandma’s for a holiday meal. That’s considered a screening. On the other hand, if there’s a known exposure, or a person is showing symptoms, what they have gone in for is considered diagnostic testing.
2. So now that we understand what diagnostic testing is, let’s share the most important thing to remember about the whole system – if you have symptoms you need to get tested!
The CDC lists the following as potential COVID symptoms, though the list is not exhaustive, and some people with COVID may show few or no symptoms at all.
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- New loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
3. If you're given options for testing, the most trusted current test method is a molecular test, such as a PCR test, using a nasal swab, ““because it will have fewer false negative results than other diagnostic tests or samples from throat swabs or saliva. People who are in the hospital, though, may have other types of samples taken,” according to Harvard Health.
While the Harvard paper found the nasal swab to be the most effective, the PCR throat swab and saliva tests are also considered to be very accurate when performed properly by a health care professional. They’re also much less invasive, and more comfortable than a longer nasal swab.
4. Another common method for detecting COVID infection is rapid antigen testing. Rapid antigen tests have a much higher error rate, failing up to 30% of the time. They are most reliable when testing patients who are in the earliest days of showing symptoms. This is when their viral load is the highest, and they’re the most contagious.
5. If your test requires a nasal swab, it will likely be uncomfortable, but not painful. The deep swabbing action prompts two natural responses. The lachrymal reflex will make your eyes tear up, and since the swab will contact the back of your throat, it can also trigger the gag reflex. Both of these responses are completely normal.
6. Speed doesn’t always win. Many COVID tests can’t detect an infection until it has been incubating for close to a week. The best time to get tested is five to seven days after you were exposed.
7. If you know or think you’ve been exposed, then isolation needs to begin immediately. You shouldn’t wait for a positive test to begin isolating. This is because you are still capable of transmitting the virus, long before you potentially show symptoms.
8. And if you do take a test, and it comes back negative, this isn’t a free pass to go wild. You can still develop symptoms after a negative test occurs, and your viral load can increase to the point of being a detectable positive.
9. Antibody tests are another lab technique, this one used to discover whether or not you carried the virus in the past. This is helpful, since many people become infected with the virus but never know, because they do not develop the disease COVID-19, or have any observable symptoms. However, antibody tests provide false negatives in up to 30% of uses.
10. If you take an antibody test and receive a positive, this can be considered a reliable result. But doctors caution, just because you can prove previous exposure to the virus, this doesn’t guarantee any long-term immunity or protection from future infection. This issue still requires study.
One of the trickiest parts of dealing with a “novel coronavirus” is that it is unique and new. Scientists and medical professionals don’t have the benefit of years of study when it comes to understanding how the virus behaves. That is why, for now, we must follow the experts’ advice, and continue keeping our distance, washing our hands, and wearing masks.
And when you wear a mask, we recommend that you always carry a maskSAFE. Our stylish face mask cases can protect the mask material from damage and cross-contamination, extending the life of your face covering, and giving you better protection while it’s being worn.
- the maskSAFE Family