When Covid-19 cases surge, testing is one of the best ways to stop the spread. And fortunately, self-tests are becoming more widely available through the federal government for free online, as well as at local clinics through the state of Montana.
Most at-home Covid-19 tests are antigen tests. This type of test typically takes a nasal swab. From that swab, the test looks for a type of protein on the outside of the Covid virus. These tests give rapid results, usually in under 15 minutes. And you can do it all in your home – no need to send anything to a lab or wait in line at a clinic.
When testing at home, you want to take your test at the right time, in the right way in order to get the most accurate results possible. Here are a few common best practices when you’re taking an at-home Covid test.
It’s free and easy to get a small home supply of Covid tests. You can go online and order four free tests from the federal government. They’ll be delivered to your door through the USPS.
You can also stop at convenient Gallatin County locations for additional state-sponsored tests.
The procedure for taking at-home Covid tests will vary depending on the test. The best first step for any test is to read the instructions from the manufacturer. Or better yet, find a video of how to take your specific type of test. Before and after any test, be sure to wash your hands.
Having any symptoms of Covid-19 is reason enough to take a test. These might include fever, cough, runny nose, loss of taste or smell, or fatigue. But symptoms could be mild, or it might seem like you just have a common cold or the flu.
If you have a known exposure to someone who has tested positive for Covid, take a test five days after your exposure. If that comes back negative, wait a day and take another. This is called serial testing, and it’s a good way to use this type of self-antigen test.
Right before a large event, take a test. This can help protect others and make large gatherings possible and safe.
If you know you’ll be spending time with an elderly friend or relative, or you plan to visit someone in a high-risk group, take a test. It’s an easy step to make sure you keep your loved ones healthy.
False positives for tests are very rare, so you can rely on your results if it’s positive. If your test comes back positive, follow CDC guidelines for isolation, and let your close contacts know that you’ve tested positive.
Though at-home tests are very reliable, these antigen tests work best in a series. If you have Covid symptoms or a known exposure, follow recommended isolation procedures and take another test the next day. A single negative result isn’t a guarantee you aren’t infected.
Invalid results mean there was an error with the test. Your sample might have been contaminated, or there might have been an issue with the test. In this case, you need to take another test.
Whether you have concerns about Covid-19 or something else, CHP is on call with affordable care throughout Southwest Montana. Get in touch with your nearest clinic to make an appointment, ask a question, or seek advice from your community healthcare providers.