How to Use a COVID-19 Rapid Test at Home

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Welcome, everyone. I'm Dr. John Whyte, the chief medical officer at WebMD, and you're watching Coronavirus in Context. Timely diagnosis of COVID is critical to make sure you get the best care and early on. It's also important for curbing the spread of the pandemic. You may not be aware of it, but the same type of COVID test that you get in your doctor's office, pharmacy, or local hospital are now available for you to do at home. And the president recently announced some measures that are going to make these tests more affordable.

There's basically two tests. The first is called the molecular tests. Sometimes, they're called the PCR. They look for a piece of genetic material of the coronavirus, so they're very accurate. But they can take some time. You're still going to have to mail in the sample. It might take a couple of days to get back, so it might just be a better use of your time to still go to that local pharmacy or hospital.

What I'm most excited about are these rapid tests, the antigen tests. They look for a protein fragment of the coronavirus, and they give you the results in 15 minutes. They're not as accurate as the PCR test, and you do need to have adequate viral load to get the most accurate results. But you know what, there is going to be time, this fall or winter, when you want to know, can your child go to school the next day? Can you go to work? And should you visit a loved one? This is going to give you the information that you need to help make the best decision for you and your family.

Now there are several brands that are out there. They all basically function the same. But how do you do the test? I'm going to show you how.

So when I look for a test kit, I actually look for one that has two tests in there. And the reason why I do, remember, I mentioned that the rapid antigen test, you have to have sufficient viral load. So if you have symptoms and you test negative, the current recommendation is that you test again in a couple of days. So if you have two tests readily available for you, that helps you in the process. And you might also want to test a family member as well, so look for the ones that have two tests.

Then, I like to make sure that the seal is not broken. So I check the box and make sure the seal is OK. And then you can go ahead and open it up. I know folks will be eager to start it, but it's key to follow the directions, and you have to lay everything out.

So you see, I'm at my kitchen table. I recommend that all of you do it at the kitchen table as well. And you lay out all the equipment.

There's not too much. There's going to be those cartridges that I remember, those two cartridges, a cotton swab, and then the applicator that you need to use.

I also want to point out that these kits are authorized for people two years of age and older, so you can use it on your kids. The recommendation, obviously, is that you do it yourself on your kids, not have them do it.

The first thing I'm going to open is the cartridge. So that's what's going to tell us whether our test is positive or negative. And the key for all of these is to lay it flat. Then, you're going to need some type of applicator to put in. This one, you put six drops on the top. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

And then it's the hard part. It's actually an easy part, but this is what gets a couple of people squeamish. Use my cotton applicator. So you take it out.

Now, I point out, these are authorized for kids 2 and older. Some kids have a specific applicator for kids, so you can't put it too far up the nose. And this is where you want to insert this, about 3/4 of an inch up each nostril.

So let's go ahead. I'm going to put it up 3/4, and then I turn it five times, five circles. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. And then I do the other, all right, those five circles. And I'm ready to go.

I put it into the cartridge, following the directions, I seal it up. All done. And I wait 15 minutes for the results.

So there you go. It's not that hard. My test is negative. I don't have any symptoms, so I'm done with testing.

I do want to point out that most of the time, the tests don't say positive or negative unless you download the app. They give you a series of different colored lines that you want to pay attention to.

So, there you go. I hope you'll consider getting a test that you can do at home for COVID because, again, I think you're going to need it this fall and winter. Thanks for watching.