Every home is now able to get four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the government. But when is it best to use them?
The home kits are antigen tests, which are not as sensitive as the PCR tests performed by labs but are still a good indicator of an infection. Testing is important to keep from spreading the coronavirus to anyone who may be at higher risk of serious illness.
There are a few circumstances when a home COVID-19 test will be most effective, said Dr. Jodi Lenko, vice chairperson of the medicine department in LVHN’s Hazleton campus, during a recent virtual forum.
• When you’re not feeling well. This is the most obvious time to take a home COVID-19 test, Lenko said. Cough, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, fatigue and night sweats are all symptoms of the omicron variant. But Lenko said to test at general signs of fever, aches and pains.
• Before socializing. This can include a family gathering or sending kids back to school after exposure, even if you’re feeling well, Lenko said. Before a family gathering, she recommended asking all participants to take home tests, especially if there will be high-risk people present.
In all cases, if the antigen test comes back positive, trust the result and isolate for at least five days, Lenko said.
Even if it’s negative, she said it’s still good to stay home for as long as symptoms persist. It’s possible for home tests to return a false negative, especially early in an infection.
Lenko recommended repeating the test within two days. If you’re still struggling with symptoms or otherwise think you have COVID-19, she said to consult with a doctor to follow up with a PCR test.
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Steve Novak may be reached at [email protected].