What To Do After Getting Results From A COVID Self-Test?
With the advent of COVID-19 self-tests, many people are now able to check their infection status wherever, whenever, and as often as they need. Whether you want to attend a crowded gathering, visit someone at-risk, or check yourself after close contact, these tests may inform you in minutes at the comfort of your own home. Due to its convenience, accessibility, and speed, self-testing for COVID-19 can enable people to take immediate action based on their results, protect themselves, and curb the transmission of the virus. However, while self-tests accurately detect infectious amounts of SARS-CoV-2, due to lower viral loads, they prove to be less sensitive especially when used at the very early onset of the infection or on an asymptomatic person.
Moreover, self-tests may be misconducted or misinterpreted when the instructions are not followed carefully. Recently, a US-based clinical trial of 360 adults has demonstrated that people who take at-home COVID-19 self-test kits might fail to self-quarantine or may quarantine unnecessarily as they misinterpret the implications of their results1. Thus, many factors contribute to how we act on results from COVID-19 self-test kits and determining what to do after testing may be a challenge. Here’s what to know about the steps to take after a self-test based on your results and symptom status.
If Your Self-Test Result is Positive
Regardless of your symptom and vaccination status, if you test positive for SARS-CoV-2 by either an at-home antigen test or PCR test, it indicates that you have an active COVID-19 infection, and you are likely to spread the virus. Here, while a positive COVID-19 self-test is a quite reliable indicator of an active infection, you may seek a follow-up COVID-19 PCR test to confirm your diagnosis.
If you experience symptoms, you must immediately self-isolate for a minimum of 7 days starting from the day you start having symptoms. If your symptoms clear up after this period, you should re-test yourself with a new COVID-19 self-test and confirm your infection status as negative. In addition, some organizations and institutions may have specific requirements that directs you to get a negative COVID-19 test result by a PCR test or a self-test.
If your symptoms persist after the isolation period, you should continue isolating until your symptoms clear. During this period, it is highly recommended to screen your infection status with routine self-testing. If your symptoms worsen, please contact your healthcare provider and access to care.
If you have no symptoms and tested positive, it still indicates that you are actively infected with SARS-CoV-2 and likely to transmit it. In this case, you can be named as an asymptomatic patient. You must immediately self-isolate for at least 7 days following the day you took the test. With routine self-testing, you can follow your infection status. At the end of this 7-day-long isolation, you should confirm your infection status as negative with a new self-test even if you experience no symptoms.
If Your Self-Test Result is Negative
Even if your self-test comes back negative, there are important steps to take following testing in order to confirm the absence of an active SARS-CoV-2 infection. In asymptomatic patients and at the very early onset of the infection, rapid antigen tests such as self-tests prove to be less sensitive. Therefore, a negative test result from a COVID-19 self-test should be usually followed by PCR testing or routine rapid antigen self-testing.
If your self-test result is negative and you do not experience any symptoms, your healthcare provider may still perform additional testing. Especially if you are a close contact, you may consider taking a follow-up PCR test and isolating at home while you wait for the results. If you do not have access to PCR, taking routine self-tests could help determine your infection status. As symptoms may not develop for up to 2 weeks after exposure to the virus, you must continue practicing social distancing and watch for symptoms. If you start developing symptoms you should immediately self-isolate and get tested with self-testing or PCR testing as soon as possible.
If your self-test result is negative but your symptoms persist or worsen, it may be that your self-test delivered a false-negative result. In this case, it is a good idea to consider yourself infected. You should get a PCR test as soon as possible and isolate until you get your results. Again, if you do not have access to PCR testing, taking another or a series of self-tests could help maximize the accuracy of your results. Another reason for this situation can be arisen from that you infected by another pathogens which gives similar symptoms such as influenza. To remove this question mark, you can get an RapidFor™ SARS-CoV-2 & FLU A/B Antigen Combo Test Kit.
Scientific Study on Self-Isolation
A recent US-based clinical trial aimed the answer how do people interpret the result of COVID-19 self-tests1. The findings are surprising. The study categorized the people into four groups as following: “contact and symptoms”, “contact and no symptoms”, “no contact and symptoms” and “no contact and no symptoms”. The common tendence of these groups is choosing not to self-quarantine after a negative result. However, it is misunderstood that the results can be affected by the viral load. Another reason for the test to give a negative result can arise from the way the test is performed. Some of the groups may not care about the instructions with anxiety. In both cases, the spread of COVID-19 pandemic cannot be curbed.
As the rules for quarantine and self-isolation change, it may be difficult to figure out the right steps to take after getting tested. Our health may depend as much on how we act on results as it does on the accuracy of the results. We are now able to access self-testing kits that enable convenient and frequent testing. If we can clarify and take the right steps after getting tested, we can optimize public health and curb the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
With routine self-testing, you can screen your infection status and develop a strategy against the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. Our RapidFor™SARS-CoV-2 Rapid Antigen Self-Test, at your service to curb COVID-19 pandemic.
- Woloshin, S., Dewitt, B., Krishnamurti, T., & Fischhoff, B. (2022). Assessing how consumers interpret and act on results from At-Home COVID-19 self-test kits. JAMA Internal Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8075