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How to use rapid COVID test kit

Rapid antigen tests detect specific proteins from the virus in infected persons. It is a high-performance test that usually takes some minutes for the result to be ready. Rapid antigen testing, unlike any other COVID test, is much less expensive, easier to perform, and offers results in 15-30 minutes at the point of care.

Most health authorities recommend a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for people showing symptoms. It is, however, cost-intensive, time-consuming (can take up 24 to 48 hours), less available, and more complex to perform.

woman checking laptop

The downsides to PCR tests highlight the importance of rapid antigen testing. Rapid antigen tests are reliable for large-scale or community-based testing of people who might have been exposed but are not showing symptoms. The only concern is the possibility of false results, which could pose a threat if not detected. This is why it is important to know how to properly use a rapid antigen testing kit.

When to use a rapid antigen test 

  1. If you’ve been in (close) contact with someone who tested positive
  2. If you require a negative test result to terminate isolation
  3. If recommended by your physician
  4. If required at work
  5. If you want to conduct a routine check before visiting family or friends, or if you’re attending an event
  6. If you’re exhibiting COVID-related symptoms

People who have COVID-related symptoms may opt for a rapid antigen test as soon as they are able. They will be required to isolate if the test result comes out positive, while arrangements are made for an appointment at a screening test centre. Adhere with COVID-19 safety guidelines throughout this time.

Note though that isolation is still required even if the test result turns out negative. Isolate while monitoring symptoms, then repeat the test after 24 hours. This is because there have been a number of false-negative cases with rapid test kits, especially at the early stage of infection.

If the test turns out invalid, the test should be retaken with a fresh sample, using a new test. An invalid result is when no coloured line shows at the area marked "C," which is the control point.

What you need to take a rapid antigen test

Rapid antigen test kits usually contain the following:

  • Information sheet.
  • Step-by-step manufacturer's guide.
  • Test cassettes in sealed packs (for repeat tests).
  • Swabs for collecting nasal samples in a sealed wrapper.
  • Vial of the buffer solution, usually in capsules.
  • Extraction tubes and their lids.
  • Extraction tube holder.
  • Waste bag.

Other things you might need:

  • A timer. You will need something to time the process as it is critical to the veracity of the test.
  • Tissues.
  • Mirror.
  • Soap and running water, or hand sanitizer.
  • Surface cleaner.

What to note before conducting a rapid antigen test

woman reading something while riding the train

  • Use a different test kit for each individual. Each component in the test kit can only be used once.
  • Do not reuse the tests. 
  • If you have issues with your hands or eyes, you may require assistance throughout the swabbing and testing process.
  • Swab the opposite nostril if you have a nose piercing. Remove the piercing on one side before swabbing if you're pierced on both sides.
  • If you ate or drank anything and plan to do the test, wait at least 30 minutes before taking the test.
  • The tests are intended for human use only.
  • Swab the other nostril or wait 24 hours if you've had a nosebleed in the past 24 hours.
  • The waste from the rapid test is not regarded as biomedical waste and can be discarded into the garbage.
  • Keep the test kit out of children's reach and store it in a cool and dry place, at room temperature. Prevent the kit from lying in direct sunlight and do not refrigerate. If the kit has been at temperatures less than 15 °C, leave it at room temperature before using it.

Steps for using a COVID rapid antigen test

  1. Check the expiry date of the test kit. Do not conduct the test with an expired kit.
  2. Read the manufacturer's instructions.
  3. If need be, watch swab test videos online as preparation.
  4. Clean a flat surface for the purpose of the test and place the kit on it.
  5. Wash your hands for 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer. If you are conducting more than one test, rewash your hands before each test.
  6. Check the contents of the test kit, as enumerated above.

Setting up the test

  1. Remove the test strip from the sealed pack and place it on a flat surface.
  2. Put the tube in the extraction tube holder.
  3. Gently twist and snap open the sachet to avoid spilling the liquid
  4. Open the extraction tube and add the liquid to the tube. Avoid letting the sachet touch the tube.
  5. Blow your nose carefully into a tissue and discard in a closed bin.
  6. Wash your hands again or use a hand sanitizer.
  7. Identify the soft tip of the swab within the sealed wrapper and avoid touching it with your hands.
  8. Open the swab pack once you are ready for the test, and take out the swab.

Taking the test

healthcare professional perfoming rapid test on man

Every rapid COVID should be performed by a healthcare professional for an accurate and safe process.

  1. Rub the soft part of the swab over your tonsils with your mouth wide open. Do this very well four times on either side. Using a good light source and mirror will help.
  2. Remove the swab from your mouth and put the same swab into 1 nostril until you feel some resistance. This is usually when the swab stick has gone about 2-3cm up your nostril.
  3. Carefully swirl the swab inside the nostril to make 10 complete circles. This could be uncomfortable.

Processing the swab sample

  1. Put the soft, fabric end of the swab in the liquid in the extraction tube. Pinch the lower end of the tube with the swab in between and rotate the swab for 15 seconds. This transfers the sample into the liquid.
  2. Pinch the tube as you remove the swab to make sure you have removed all the liquid from the swab.
  3. Close the cap to prevent leaks, and rewash your hands.
  4. Carefully squeeze the extraction tube to put two drops of the fluid into the round pit called the specimen well. This area is marked "S". Ensure there is no air bubble as you drop the fluid. Do not put extra drops.
  5. Set your timer and wait patiently for about 30 minutes before reading the result.

Discard each component into the waste bag after use. 

Reading the test results

man reading something

Positive: Coloured lines appear at both the control (C) and test (T) areas.

Negative: A coloured line appears at the control (C) area, and no line shows at the test (T) area.

Invalid: No line appears at the control (C) area, even if a line shows at the test (T) area.

As the globe continues to combat this devastating pandemic, everyone has a role to play in reducing the spread of the virus. COVID guidelines must be followed to the letter. Get an authorized and reliable rapid diagnostic test kit whenever you need to take a test. Early diagnosis via timely testing helps to limit the spread of illness, and if necessary, isolation can begin immediately.

Order today MyZone Health tests kits, authorized by Health Canada and successful in detecting Omicron and any other COVID variant.