- I tested myself for COVID-19 from the comfort of my bedroom.
- I had never taken a rapid test before, but the instructions were easy to follow.
- Rapid antigen tests are convenient, but they’re not as sensitive as PCR tests.
Since then, rapid antigen tests have become more widespread. Antigen tests quickly scan for fragments of the virus’ genetic material, which is a good way to know if you’re infectious or not. But they don’t detect the virus with as much sensitivity as PCR tests, so there’s a greater chance of getting a false negative.
The convenience of getting a result in 15 minutes appealed to me, but I knew I would have to take it with a grain of salt. Experts say rapid tests are most helpful if used for frequent screening, like testing every three days.
A colleague told me they were capped at one test kit when ordering online from Walgreens. Other pharmacies also limit how many tests you can buy due to high demand. CVS allows four tests per customer in stores, or six per purchase online.
The test kit also came with two wrapped test cards, a fact sheet about antigen testing, and detailed instructions in both English and Spanish.
Following step one in the instructions, I washed my hands before getting started.
I had a bit of trouble getting the card to lie open, but bending the spine back (as suggested in the instructions) did the trick.
The instructions said to hold the bottle straight, not at an angle, and to make sure to get six drops in. A false negative can occur if there’s not enough liquid in the hole.
I tried my best to use enough of the solution, but the dropper spit out several air bubbles along with it. I added an extra drop for good measure, and there was not enough liquid left for a second test when I was done.
The instructions say to make at least five big circles per nostril, or swab for 15 seconds on each side. I counted to 15, eyes watering, and then repeated on the other side.
Before closing the card, I made sure to turn the swab to the right three times to mix my sample with the reagent drops.
My test card was identical to the negative result diagram, with a single pink line where it said “control.” There wasn’t even a hint of a second line, which would indicate a positive result.
If I had reason to believe I was exposed to the coronavirus, I would take a couple more rapid tests this week to be sure I was negative. But given that I’m fully vaccinated and haven’t come into contact with any sick people to my knowledge, I feel good about my result.