What you should know about at-home COVID-19 tests

Local News

ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Some Upstate medical professionals said they are seeing people taking at-home COVID tests, and getting false negative results.

“We do see the at-home tested patients come into the clinic negative, and then they have a positive with us,” said Jamie Bright, Nurse Practitioner & Co-Owner of Redi Care Urgent Care.  

We’re told these false negatives are the result of user error. In some cases, people are not doing the test correctly, or taking the tests too early.

“I think mostly with user error. Just people not knowing how far to go up into their nasal cavity to get what they need to show a positive,” said Charles Bright Jr., Co-Owner Redi Care Urgent Care. “I think that’s probably where my biggest concern would be,” he said. “The biggest thing that I see is, when people do their own test, and I’ve seen people do these tests. When people do their own test and they’re given a swab to go up in their nasal cavity, they’re going to stop as soon as they feel any kind of tickle, sneeze, anything. Any kind of resistance, makes them naturally reflex and pull that swab back and out,” Charles said.

“You know, pulling away too quickly. Not getting that good DNA from the virus on there. Just getting the snot in the front, that’s not going to cut it,” Jamie said. “Not letting it sit long enough, bubbling up the liquid too much, there’s a lot of things that as simple as it is, it still takes a pretty educated person to complete it,” she said.

Jamie and Charles also said it’s all about the timing. If symptoms are just beginning, that could lead to an inaccurate test.

“When you think about all those variables, that you’re only one day into symptoms and you’re doing at home tests, and you pull back too early, you’re not getting enough matter on the swab, I think that makes the accuracy go down to 40, 50, 60%. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of are the tests accurate, or if the tests are good, it’s more or less the people who are doing it, are just not qualified,” Charles said.

Charles said the Omicron variant shows up more, on the at-home rapid tests about two or three days into symptoms.

“If they get an at home test, the first thing I would say is, make sure that you’ve had symptoms at least two days before testing,” Charles said.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SC DHEC), said the tests can be trusted when someone has symptoms and it’s administered correctly.

“The accuracy for these, a lot of depends on the user, and their following the instructions very carefully,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, Director of Public Health at SC DHEC. “These are not necessarily the easiest one, two-step tests, but they are not too complex. They can be done by individuals out in the public, but they need to take care, time, and attention to make sure they are following the instructions right to the letter,” Dr. Traxler said.

“We know that they are more accurate when somebody has symptoms, and we know that, as you were asking about false negatives and false positives, false negatives are going to be more likely with these than a false positive,” Dr. Traxler said. “However, the accuracy can be very good with these tests, and again, the key thing is knowing. The accuracy is certainly as high enough where it helps, having those few false negatives or even a false positive as a trade-off to having early detection of most of our cases,” she said.

Jamie said she recently received data from the CDC.

“If they do a rapid COVID test they’re inexpensive and fast but sometimes give incorrect results, that only one and five patients with symptoms and confirmed COVID will receive a negative Antigens test result,” Jamie said. “So it’s only picking up about 80%, and that’s when you’ve had symptoms and you’ve had them for a day or so at least,” Jamie said.

“If they test positive on it, they do not need to go stand in line and get a PCR test,” Dr. Traxler said. “If they test negative, and they have symptoms, they need to follow the instructions. Some of these recommend that a certain time period, a day or two later, you repeat the test. Some of them come two to a package, and so you would follow those instructions. If you do one rapid test that’s negative, and you’re still having symptoms, then I would recommend if you don’t have that other rapid test as part of that kit, that you go and get a PCR test done,” Dr. Traxler said.

Jamie said if you do take these tests at home, you should keep these things in mind.

“I think they’re a good tool to have in your arsenal to help guide your exposure to other patients, it just should not be all of your marbles in one bag,” Jamie said. “It should be how you feel, what you’re situation is, have you been exposed, is everybody else sick at the house,” Jamie said. “It’s just a tool. Home tests to me, are a tool,” she said.

The owners of Redi Care Urgent Care said if you’re asymptomatic, they do not recommend taking the test at home.

“I really wouldn’t do an at home test if you’re asymptomatic,” Charles said. “If you really want to know if you have COVID and you’re asymptomatic, I would definitely go to a healthcare facility to get a PCR test,” he said.

Dr. Traxler also recently answered how at-home test are looked at by the state.

“According to the South Carolina list of reportable conditions that DHEC publishes and the updates at least once a year…certainly more frequently…but during COVID at times, the positive COVID-19 home tests are not reportable to DHEC,” Dr. Traxler said. “Only the tests that are performed or conducted or supervised by a healthcare provider are reportable. So only the ones that are being done by a lab or a healthcare provider, have to be reported to DHEC,” she said. “In many states, the CDC also does not want us reporting on home results to them either,” Traxler said. “So yes, there is likely under reporting going on for the case counts, and will be, as more home tests are being used,” she said. “But that being said, home tests are so critical, I think has such a vital role in everybody’s efforts to identify a positive case, especially early on,” Dr. Traxler explained.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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