Finding a COVID-19 antigen test
How to get tested?
There are multiple options for obtaining an antigen test for COVID-19. Antigen tests can be prescribed by a doctor, and many antigen tests are also available without a prescription at pharmacies, health clinics, or for home use. In most cases, your test sample is collected and tested at the same location. This is known as a site-of-care test.
Most point-of-care testing systems are designed to perform rapid tests and provide results in 15 minutes. Although site-of-care antigen testing is more common, a test sample can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. For this type of test, you may have the sample taken in a medical setting, such as a hospital or doctor’s office.
Can I take the test at home?
Kits are available to test for COVID-19 antigen at home. Some are available by prescription and others are offered without a prescription. These point-of-care tests are designed for single use only and allow you to collect a sample yourself and then test it at home. Results are generally provided within 15 minutes.
How much does the test cost?
Antigen testing is less expensive than many other types of tests, including PCR, but the exact cost can vary depending on where the test is performed, whether it is covered by insurance, and the specific brand of test used. Individual tests are generally available for less than $ 50 when purchased without a prescription. If a doctor prescribes an antigen test, insurance may cover the cost, except for copays or deductibles required by your plan. Home antigen tests are available for around $ 25 for each individual test, although you may need to purchase packs of multiple test kits.
COVID-19 antigen test results
Receive test results
If your doctor prescribes an antigen test, your doctor may report the test results directly to you. If the sample is sent to a laboratory, it may take a few days for the test result to be obtained. For site-of-care testing, results are typically available quickly, often within 15 minutes. When your test is done in a medical setting, you may be able to wait for the results in person or access them electronically once they are ready. With home options, results are often available via a smartphone app or displayed on your home test kit.
Interpretation of test results
The test report for an antigen test will indicate whether your sample was positive or negative for SARS-CoV-2 antigens. Doctors interpret the antigen test results in relation to the pre-test probability of being positive or negative. If you do not have symptoms, have no known exposure to SARS-CoV-2, and live in an area with low levels of transmission of the virus, your pre-test chance of testing positive is low, which means there is a higher chance that a positive result is a false positive.
That said, if the test is positive, you need to isolate yourself and take steps to prevent the spread of the virus. Similarly, if you have COVID-19 symptoms and are in close contact with an infected person, you have a high chance of testing positive before testing. In these situations, there is an increased risk that a negative result will be a false negative.
Even if your test is negative, knowing the highest false-negative rate, you should continue to follow CDC guidelines such as masking and social distancing. By comparing the pre-test probability of testing positive or negative with the actual test result, your doctor can determine if a follow-up test, such as a PCR, is needed to confirm the result and diagnosis.