Types of Covid Tests and Requirements (Updated 2022)

Could you have imagined that Rapid Antigen and PCR tests would become a regular part of your vocabulary? The pandemic has led all of us to learn about proper testing techniques, PPE supplies, and caring for those who are sick.

Thankfully over the last few years, numerous COVID-19 testing options have become available to help mitigate the spread of COVID.

What are the major types of COVID-19 Tests? 

The two major types of COVID tests are Antigen and Molecular (RT-PCR) tests. Both are useful and important to the multilayer approach to dealing with COVID-19. 

What are Antigen tests?

Antigen tests can be purchased without a prescription and detect specific proteins on the surface of the virus. They can be performed virtually anywhere at any time – making them great options for travelers. The typical rule of thumb is to use an OTC Rapid Antigen Test within 72 hours of your first known exposure or at the first sign of symptoms. 

Test results usually appear in under 30 minutes. 

Nurse admistering COVID-19 test

What are Molecular RT-PCR tests?

Molecular RT-PCR tests can either be tested using saliva or a nasal swab. They are considered the “gold standard” of COVID tests by the medical community – boasting a 100% test accuracy. The highly sensitive tests detect the virus via genetic material. PCRs amplify – using a technique called polymerase chain –  the genetic material within the sample so that even small amounts of coronavirus genes in the sample can be detected. 

Standard PCR tests take anywhere from 24 hours to a few days to receive results. 

While most PCR tests have to be performed at healthcare facilities due to the special testing equipment, CUE Health created an alternative, at-home nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT). The PCR Cartridge Test cannot specify which variant the person has, but it can detect subvariants Delta, Omicron, BA.2, and others of concern. Cartridge reads are monitoring systems, sold separately from the tests that are used to process and analyze the test results. After doing so, the reader will digitally transmit the results to the Cue Health App via Bluetooth technology.

Which COVID-19 tests are more accurate, PCR or antigen tests?

PCR Test Antigen Test Antibody Tests (Serology) are known as the “gold standard” in the medical community for their accuracy and sensitivity. Antigen test results vary because they are typically self-performed by non-medical professionals who may not follow the directions as suggested or collect the specimen appropriately. 

That being said, both PCR and antigen tests serve a purpose. 

Antigen tests are a great starting point and can identify in a good majority of cases if there is an active infection or not. If you’re symptomatic (chills, fatigue, headaches) and the antigen test returns a negative result, a PCR test would be suggested as a follow-up. Also, if you’re symptom-free and have been in close contact with someone who’s tested positive, a PCR test would be more accurate.

Nasal vs Throat Swab for COVID, which is better?

Long nasal swabs are recommended over short and throat swabs for testing COVID to receive the most accurate results. Saliva has lower pH (acidity) levels – fluctuates with food and beverages – than the nasal passages and can lead to more false-positive results for antigen tests. 

COVID test results

How do OTC tests work?

OTC (over-the-counter) COVID-19 tests require the person to collect their own sample, follow the instructions included on the test box, and read the results after the wait time is up. The accuracy of OTC COVID tests varies, but are considered more accurate if the user is currently experiencing symptoms and their viral load is high.

It is important to swab the nasal passage before using the regent, as reagents are not meant to go into the body. 

  • Extract all of the necessary parts from the package
  • Using the nasopharyngeal swabs, gently rub the interior of your nasal passages
  • Wait 10-15 minutes(or time according to the packaging of your particular test)
  • Read results

    Who should use OTC tests?

    OTC tests can be used by individuals over the age of 14 or can be collected by an adult for those 2 and older. They are great to keep at schools, offices, and homes to receive fast results in an effort to minimize outbreaks. 

    COVID-19 Card Kits and Cartridges

    COVID-19 card kits such as the binaxnow covid-19 antigen card home test kits are great options for those looking for over-the-counter nasal swab tests. Each kit contains the necessary information on how to safely collect a sample, test it, and interpret the results.

    If you’re not sure if you should buy the Abbott BinaxNOW covid-19 ag card home test kits or another card kit, look at our COVID-19 test collection for more information to make the best choice for you!

    Lab technician testing covid tests

    What is a POC COVID-19 Rapid Test?

    POC (Point of Care) rapid tests are used by public health providers with a CLIA waiver test and diagnose COVID-19. The tests are packaged with multiple test cartridges or cards and one reagent bottle to activate the tests. 

    What is CLIA?

    CLIA is a federal regulation that regulates how laboratories handle "human specimens” – mucus from the nasal swab of COVID-19 tests. The laboratories that perform screening or diagnostic testing for SARS-CoV-2 must have a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certificate and meet regulatory requirements.

    Our bttn suppliers have received CLIA accreditation and FDA approval for selling COVID-19 Tests. Click on the images below to see our vendors' CLIA Certifications.

    CLIA Certification Requirements

    Are you an organization looking to get CLIA certified? Download PDF CLIA Instructions and the CLIA Application



    What is a viral COVID test?

    Viral COVID tests tell you whether or not you’re currently infected with COVID-19 based on specimen samples collected from your nose or mouth. Viral test types include rapid and laboratory tests. 

    How long does COVID-19 last?

    There’s no exact timeline for how long it takes for people to recover from COVID-19. For most mild cases, recovery occurs within one to two weeks. Those with more severe cases can take weeks and months to recover – Long COVID (Post-COVID Conditions), where the infection causes lasting effects.  

    What does it mean if I have a false positive COVID-19 rapid antigen test?

    False positives from rapid antigen COVID-19 tests usually occur from timing or test quality issues. If the test is taken too early or too late in the infectious stage, results could be skewed. If directions are not followed as per the instructions on the box (e.g. sample is left too long in the reagent or the specimen is not properly collected), the accuracy of the test results will vary. 

    Can I treat my COVID-19 symptoms at home?

    Yes, in fact, most people who test positive for mild cases of COVID-19 treat the virus at home. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest! 

    Do COVID tests really expire?

    COVID tests do have expiration dates, but the FDA has issued extensions on expired laboratory and home tests for some states. The evidence is weak at best right now as to whether or not the tests really do expire – cannot produce accurate positive or negative results. It’s mainly because manufacturers have not had enough time to perform tests on the products to demonstrate the effective performance on potentially expired COVID-10 tests. 

    Before using a COVID test that’s marked as “expired” on the package, check the FDA’s site for any update as to whether or not there was an extension added for that specific product. 

    To ensure a long shelf life (maybe even one past the expiration date), it’s best to store the tests in a cool, dark place with temperatures between 59 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

    How to use on/go covid-19 antigen self-test

    For everything you need to know about the on/go antigen self-test, you’ll need to install the On/Go app on the Google Play Store or the Apple Store.  

    Where to buy COVID-19 at-home tests

    At-home COVID-19 tests can be purchased from a variety of online and in-store facilities. bttn sells BinaxNow, iHealth, and Quidel QuickVUE tests. USPS COVID 19 free tests are also available for at-home rapid testing. 

    Are there any FDA-approved rapid covid tests?

    Yes, there are 22 FDA-approved rapid covid tests! The types of tests can vary, so make sure you get the brand and product you want/need for your specific situation.

    What is the liquid in the covid-19 test kit?

    Rapid antigen testing kits such as those by BinaxNow and Flowflex, use sodium azide as a reagent fluid. The water-soluble chemical separates out the viral DNA for analysis. 

    Can you eat or drink before a covid-19 test?

    It depends on which covid test you are taking. If getting a Nasopharyngeal (NP) test, there is no preparation needed. Simply swab and wait for the results. 

    For saliva tests, you should not eat, smoke (or vape), or drink at least 30 minutes prior to the test. In addition, do not brush your teeth or use a mouthwash of any kind at least 3 hours before the test. 

    What are serology tests?

    Serology tests check for the presence of antibodies in the blood. In recent years, they have been used to detect whether a person has or has been exposed to the SARS COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19

    What are the types of diagnostic tests for COVID-19?

    COVID-19 Test Types: Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests (NAATs) -- PCR-based tests also known as molecular tests -- and antigen tests.

    How accurate are COVID Rapid Tests?

    The at-home rapid types of covid tests vary in their accuracy levels based on the test manufacturer, when the patient sample is taken, and if the person is symptomatic. They can produce false negative and false positive results. A study done by Cochrane showed that antigen tests accurately identified positive cases 73% of the time in people who were showing symptoms. The study also showed that the accuracy of the test increased when it was used in the first week after symptoms. 

    How long will I test positive for Covid 19?

    Most people can test positive up to 10 days after the onset of symptoms. That said, others can test positive for COVID weeks and months after they’ve recovered from the infection. If you have any questions about your symptoms or how to read your results, don't hesitate to reach out to a trusted health care worker or visit a testing site for additional testing.


    Medical Advice Disclaimer:

    The information provided by bttn on this website is not medical advice, and all materials on this website, including text and images, are for educational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for advice from a professional healthcare provider.