Rapid Antigen Test

cartoon people receiving a rapid antigen test for travel

COVID tests are essential for maintaining your well-being and the health of the people around you. Knowing whether or not you have a coronavirus infection allows you to make appropriate decisions regarding your daily life and treatment. However, there are significant factors to consider with every COVID test, including rapid antigen tests.

What is a Rapid Antigen Test?

Rapid antigen tests detect the presence of antigens within the body. An antigen is a substance that triggers an immune response within the body. This substance may be a foreign chemical, virus, bacteria, or toxin. Some cells and tissues in the body may also cause an immune response under certain situations.

When an antigen enters the body, it initiates the body’s immune response. This immune response then unleashes antibodies. These antibodies work like soldiers, seeking out the antigens, binding to them, and eliminating them before they can do the body too much harm. 

During this test, a nasal swab will be inserted into the nasal passage. This is how the specimen is collected to test for antigens. 

These tests use antibodies to check for the presence of a specific antigen. An antigen test typically includes a testing strip. On this test strip are antibodies, painted in a thin line on the strip, and specific to the antigen being tested for. 

Antibodies on the testing strip react like they would within the body if an antigen is present. The antibodies detect the antigen and bind to it. This reaction changes the color of the antibody line on a test strip – indicating a positive sample.

COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Test

The COVID-19 Antigen Test

The COVID-19 antigen test is specific to the COVID virus, SARS-CoV-2. In this case, this test checks for the presence of the antigen (SARS-CoV-2) using antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 painted on the test strip. A color change on this line indicates the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus within the sample.

child getting a rapid antigen test

Benefits of an Antigen Test

Antigen tests have both advantages and disadvantages. What sets these tests apart from other diagnostic tests is speed and convenience, since results can be produced in 15-30 minutes.

Rapid Antigen Tests Have Speedy Results

While other tests may require days to obtain a result, most antigen tests offer results in a few hours or less. For example, an individual taking another COVID-19 test, like the molecular PCR test, may have to wait 24 to 48 hours for a result. While that timeframe is still quick by most diagnostic test standards, it’s still about a day or two of waiting time.

Antigen Tests are Convenient

An antigen COVID-19 test can be completed without in-depth training. People can perform the test and interpret the results independently, sometimes even in their own homes. These tests are also less costly than PCR tests and do not require expensive tools or machines to process samples.

Despite their benefits, rapid tests do have their drawbacks. In some cases, the results can be less accurate than PCR tests. Antigen tests work best when there are many viruses in the body. 

In particular instances, however, like when an antigen test is conducted at the start or end of an illness, the test may provide a false negative result. On the other hand, a molecular PCR test can detect small amounts of virus — even at the start of an infection. 

For this reason, the timing of an antigen test affects the accuracy of the results. If a test is taken too early in the course of an infection, it may have a negative result – despite an active infection. The immune response is still building up; therefore, there is a chance that the test may present as negative.

Who Should Take a COVID-19 Antigen Test?

Although an antigen test for COVID is less sensitive than a PCR test, there are some instances when they are worthwhile. 

A COVID antigen test is best for the following situations:

Rapid antigen tests are essential tools for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Because COVID is a highly infectious disease, a quick result can reduce the spread of infection. Rather than waiting 48 hours for a molecular test result — during which a person can spread the illness — a rapid antigen test quickly identifies infected individuals. The infected people can then take the correct precautions to keep the COVID virus from spreading to others.

How to Prepare for an Antigen Test

To ensure the most accurate result, DO NOT consume food, drink, smoke, or vape one hour before taking a COVID-19 antigen test. In addition, having the appropriate documentation and identification on hand helps facilitate the reporting process. Face masks are required upon arrival.

What is Serial Testing?

Serial testing is when an individual is tested for COVID-19 repeatedly using the same type of test. Because the number of antigens in a sample may change daily, individuals should perform serial testing if they suspect they have COVID-19 but test negative on an antigens test.

How Long Until Antigen Test Results?

Rapid antigen tests are the fastest way to determine whether an individual is infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Results are usually available within 1 to 4 hours after obtaining a sample. Since antigen tests have a higher rate of false negatives than PCR tests, some negative tests may need to be repeated within 48 hours. 

A positive result with a COVID-19 rapid antigen test means that the individual is very likely infected with the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2. A negative test may require serial testing to determine if an individual is free of the COVID-19 virus. Healthcare professionals can help determine if serial testing is necessary. 

If someone tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, they should avoid close contact with other people and avoid contact with high-risk individuals altogether. After testing positive, it is important to monitor symptoms and follow guidelines from health care professionals.

a nurse filling a needle up with the COVID-19 vaccine for a patient

Rapid Antigen Test Orange County

Orange County COVID Clinic can help you or your loved ones navigate the COVID testing process. We offer both the molecular COVID-19 PCR test and the Rapid Antigen test to meet your testing needs. Our trained professionals will make your testing experience smooth and stress-free. 

Contact our clinic today to book an appointment.

Antigen tests are rapid diagnostic tests. Our COVID test sites can have your results ready in 1-4 hours. However, depending on volume, test results can be available in just 15-30 minutes.
Rapid Antigen tests are up to 96% accurate with COVID-19 symptoms and 80% accurate without them. These tests are most accurate 4-5 days after exposure to the virus when there are higher amounts of the virus in your body. You can easily schedule a rapid COVID test in Orange County online through our website.
In addition to Rapid Antigen testing, our facility also offers Rapid PCR testing and the IgG/IgM Rapid Antibody Test. PCR tests are another nasal swab test that detect current coronavirus infections, instead identifying COVID on a molecular level through its RNA. Rapid PCR testing can be processed on-site to give you your results in an hour. For Laboratory Processed results, we also offer Same-Day and Next Day PCR testing. Antibody tests detect previous SARS COVID infections through identifying antibodies produced after previous infection full vaccination. This test typically takes between 1-4 hours, depending on volume.

Rapid diagnostic tests identify and diagnose COVID-19 quickly by using an upper respiratory sample to detect the virus. These tests include both RT-PCR and Antigen testing. Patients can receive their test results in less than an hour, within the same day, or by the next day. Depending on the specific test, nasal swab samples are either processed on site at our testing facility or sent to a laboratory. Rapid same-day PCR testing must be scheduled before 10:30 for High-Complex Lab to receive and process the specimens and return the results by 9pm via email. You can easily book a rapid COVID test in Orange County through our website.

If your COVID test results come back positive, please follow the CDC’s guidelines on self-isolation until you are no longer contagious, regardless of whether you experience symptoms. Most people’s cases are mild, and they can recover fully at home before returning to their normal life after 10 days of isolation, including from others in your household. However, you should contact your healthcare provider if your symptoms worsen. If you have been fully vaccinated, your healthcare provider may also recommend another COVID test, such as the PCR test, to confirm your diagnosis.
While Rapid Antigen testing is highly accurate, like all diagnostic tests, there is a chance of producing false positive COVID test results. If this occurs, you should self-isolate yourself and schedule a supplementary rapid PCR test. PCR tests, or molecular tests, are considered the Gold Standard of COVID testing because they are more sensitive and detect SARS-CoV-2 through its RNA genetics. 1-hour, Same-Day, and Next-Day PCR tests are available.

Swab tests like the Rapid Antigen test take a specimen sample of your upper respiratory system through a non-invasive lower nasal swab. These tests are used to find a virus that is currently in the body, allowing a healthcare provider to diagnose current COVID infections. A blood test instead looks for whether you have previously contracted the virus through detecting COVID antibodies. The immune system starts producing these antibodies 2 weeks after infection or finishing your last vaccination dose. Blood tests cannot identify current infections and therefore cannot be used for diagnostic purposes.

If your test results come back negative and you do not experience COVID-19 symptoms, it is still recommended by the CDC that you self-quarantine for two weeks after your last exposure. However, if you have symptoms, an additional test may be required. A negative test result doesn’t guarantee that you aren’t infected. If collected too early (earlier than 4-5 days after exposure), there may not have been enough of the virus present for the Antigen test to detect. A second (PCR) test can help confirm a negative test result.

You should schedule a COVID test if you experience COVID-19 symptoms (including loss of taste or smell, fever, chills, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, muscle aches, and more) or have come within 6 feet of someone who has tested positive. Additionally, we recommend getting tested if you have been to large and crowded gatherings. You may also be required to get tested by schools, workplaces, airports, theme parks, and certain locations, such as when traveling across state or country lines. If you’re traveling internationally, please check your destination’s testing requirements before scheduling your COVID test.