Your step-by-step guide to COVID-19 Self-Test (Rapid Antigen Test)
COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits are lateral flow diagnostic devices for the qualitative detection of SARS-COV-2 antigens in human nasal, nasopharyngeal, or saliva specimen. Taking a rapid antigen test is a quick, affordable, and convenient option to check if you are actively infected by SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These tests can detect a current COVID-19 infection on the spot, with results arriving in 15 to 30 minutes.
Several COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits have recently been made available for public use as self-tests. As these tests are designed for self-administration, you do not need additional equipment or special training for the preparation, execution, and the interpretation of your test. Although the procedure is generally simple, quick, and safe, with user-friendly materials and easy-to-follow steps, it is essential that you familiarize yourself with the materials and procedure ahead of time to guarantee optimal accuracy and safety. Below, you can find a step-by-step guideline to inform you on how to properly prepare for and perform your test, as well as how to interpret your results. Since each test kit may have different instructions, please read the instructions included within your kit carefully prior to testing. If you follow the instructions carefully step-by-step, you will have a far better chance of getting accurate results.
1. Before You Start
To avoid inaccurate and invalid results, it is important to refrain from activities such as eating, drinking, smoking, vaping, chewing gum, and brushing teeth for about 30 minutes before collecting your swab sample. It is best to refer to the instructions provided with your test kit to confirm the duration of this period, since there may be slight differences among different test kits.
Storage conditions may also affect test performance. Typically, COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests require a storage temperature between 2°C – 30°C, however you should always refer to the guidelines provided with your test kit and store your kit accordingly. In general, it is advised to not keep the kit in the freezer or expose it to direct sunlight. and to use it only in room temperature.
To minimize the risk of contamination, you should make sure to perform the test with clean hands and on a clean surface. Therefore, immediately before you start the procedure, clear, clean and dry a flat surface to lay out the components of your test kit. You should also clean your hands with soap and warm water or hand sanitizer prior to testing.
Typically, COVID-19 rapid antigen self-test kits contain a test cassette, a sterile swab, an extraction buffer sachet, an extraction tube, along with a waste bag. Before conducting the test, you should confirm that each component of the kit is present and undamaged. If you notice any damaged or missing items, you should not perform the test. Likewise, you should not conduct the test in if you notice damaged or broken packaging. Finally, make sure to check the expiry date of the kit provided on the packaging.
It is recommended that you the test within 30 minutes after opening your kit. You might need to set a timer to ensure that you finish the procedure on time and read your results within the period specified in the guideline.
2. Set Up Your Test
You should only remove the components of the test kit from their packaging when you are ready to take the test. When you are ready, twist open the sachet containing extraction buffer and squeeze all the liquid from the sachet into the extraction tube. For most reliable results, be careful not to spill any of the solution.
3. Collect Your Swab Sample
For the most reliable results, it is advised to gently blow your nose before collecting a nasal sample. If you are ready to perform the test, find the sterile swab and remove it from its sealed packaging. To avoid contaminating your sample, you should only touch the plastic handle and make sure that the fabric end of the swab does not encounter your hands or any other surfaces.
Next, gently insert the fabric tip of sterile swab for around 2.5 cm or 1 inch into one nostril, place it against the inner wall of your nose, and rotate the swab a few times as instructed. Repeat the same step for the other nostril. Although this procedure may feel a little uncomfortable, you should not insert the swab any deeper if you experience strong resistance or pain.
If you notice blood on your swab, do not proceed with your swab. If you do not have a nosebleed, you can collect another sample with a new swab after blowing your nose. If you have a nosebleed, wait for 24 hours before taking a test.
4.Process Your Swab Sample
After collecting your swab sample, insert the swab into the extraction tube and dip its fabric tip into the buffer solution. Press the tip of the swab against the inner wall of the tube, and gently squeeze the swab in the solution for a few times as instructed. You should be careful not to cause any splashes as this step transfers your sample into the extraction buffer.
Then, you should pinch the upper half of the swab to remove it, leave the other half in the tube, and attach the cap tightly onto the tube to prevent leaks.
Next, mix the tube and carefully break off the tip of the cap.
Remove the test strip from its packaging, place it on a flat surface, and gently squeeze the extraction tube to add 2 -3 drops of the liquid into the designated area on the strip, or the sample well (S). For the best results, be careful not to touch the tube to the sample well (S).
For the safe disposal of the kit, put all testing equipment into the waste bag immediately after using it, seal the bag securely and dispose it immediately in the general waste bin.
Finally, make sure to clean or sterilize your hands and the surface after completing the test.
5. Read Your Results
COVID-19 rapid antigen self-tests typically results within 15 to 30 minutes. In order to avoid inaccurate or invalid results, you should only read the results within the time period specified in the instructions.
The presence of the control line (C) is an indication of the successful penetration of the test sheet by the specimen, the reactivity of the reagents, and proper test performance. If the control line (C) is not visible on the test strip, the test results are considered invalid.
The presence of both the control line (C) and the test line (T) indicates a positive result. This means that you have an active infection with SARS-CoV-2.
If only the control line (C) is visible, the test result is negative. To rule out the possibility of a SARS-COV-2 infection altogether, you might need additional testing either by a PCR test or by serial antigen testing.