Are my COVID tests still effective?
The first confirmed case of the COVID omicron variant in the U.S. was identified on December 1, 2021. Since that time, many other variants have been circulating in this country. So, you may be wondering, are your home antigen tests still accurate for detecting these variants?
Evidence shows that COVID tests will still work as long as they haven’t passed the expiration date printed on the package. And testing has shown they remain effective longer than originally believed. You can check with the FDA to find out whether your test’s expiration date has been extended.
Dr. Robert Citronberg, executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention at Advocate Aurora Health, notes that home antigen tests are still very good. “Although they are less sensitive than molecular (PCR) tests you get at a clinic or hospital, they still detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus about 80% of the time. Home antigen tests are more accurate in patients who have symptoms, compared to those who do not have symptoms,” he says.
To help reduce your risk of getting a false negative result, the FDA recommends using serial (repeat) testing. If you have no symptoms when you take an antigen test and get a negative result, you should take another antigen test 48 hours after the first result. If the second test is also negative, it’s recommended to take a third test after another 48 hours.
If you have symptoms when you start testing, the FDA recommends one repeated antigen test 48 hours after an initial negative result.
“If you test positive with an antigen test, it’s very likely that you have COVID and there’s no need to test again,” says Dr. Citronberg. The evidence so far shows that false positives from antigen tests are rare. After a positive test, recommendations remain the same.
And if you haven’t gotten vaccinated or aren’t up to date on your boosters, you should get your shots as soon as possible. The real-life evidence of the past three years shows that vaccinations and boosters continue to offer the safest and best protection from severe disease, hospitalization and death.
About the Author
Jo Linsley, a health enews contributor, is a digital content strategist at Advocate Aurora Health. With decades of experience in writing and editing, she continues to aspire to concise and inspiring writing. She also enjoys knitting and singing as creative outlets and for their meditative qualities.