How to Get the Most Accurate Results from an At-Home COVID-19 Test

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While experts advise people who think they may have COVID-19 to test on day 1 of symptoms, a new study suggests that for people using home (rapid) kits, testing again on day 4 may yield the most accurate results.

For the study, scientists examined data on 348 adults newly diagnosed with COVID-19 based on PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing. PCR tests are administered by medical professionals and are considered the gold standard because they’re extremely sensitive and can detect even very low levels of coronavirus. All study participants provided detailed information on when their symptoms started and any recent COVID-19 testing history.

Researchers then administered rapid tests to see if and when results would match those from the positive PCR tests.

The scientists found that the rapid tests were most likely to match PCR results four days after symptoms started, when viral loads, or the amount of virus in the body, typically will peak, according to study findings published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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