COVID testing is a critical part of our response to this pandemic, and it’s important that everyone has access to it. Even if you have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, you may still need to get tested.
There are different kinds of tests, all designed to detect a variety of viruses and pathogens. Some are faster than others, and some are more accurate than other kinds.
The most common test is a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. This type of test can detect active infections, like COVID-19, by identifying the genetic material or fragments of the virus that are breaking down in your body. It can also tell if you are infected with other viruses, such as influenza or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Another test, called an antigen test, looks for certain proteins in the COVID-19 virus. It uses a nasal swab to collect a sample of fluid, and it can produce results in minutes.
These antigen tests are fast and easy to perform, but they are less accurate than a PCR test. They have a higher chance of missing people who are not infected with the COVID-19 virus, and they are not as good at diagnosing asymptomatic cases of infection, or those who have had a recent infection but do not have any symptoms.
An antibody test is another kind of test that looks for antibodies in your blood that help your immune system fight the COVID-19 virus. These antibodies are made by your body after an infection or vaccination, and can protect you from getting infected again for a period of time. But they can’t diagnose a current infection, because it takes about 1 to 3 weeks for your body to make antibodies after an infection.
You can get a COVID-19 antibody test from a doctor or health care provider, or you can do it yourself with an at-home kit that has been approved by the FDA for emergency use. You will need to provide your health insurance information and a sample of blood or saliva for the test, and it will be sent to a lab.
There are permanent and temporary covid testing sites throughout Philadelphia, and you can find a location near you using this search tool. Click on a location to learn more and to get in touch with the testing site.
Some sites will charge you for a visit fee, and some may be covered by your health insurance. Before you go, however, check with your health insurance to see if it covers the test and if it will be considered an out-of-pocket cost or a covered benefit.
Most COVID-19 antibody tests can be done at home, if you have the proper equipment and access to a test site. The kits are simple to use and include everything you need, including a Q-tip for collecting a sample of nasal fluid or saliva.
These tests aren’t as fast or as accurate as a PCR or antigen test, but they may be a good option in certain circumstances. Some of them are available for free, while others require a prescription from your doctor.