covid test

COVID 19 Test Kits

Let's be accurate here. The worldwide pandemic is about a disease called COVID-19 that is caused by SARS-CoV-2 which is the type of coronavirus that was first seen back in December 2019 and that has swept the globe.

Covid 19

The vaccination programme against covid 19 is well under way in the UK. Alongside this programme are two main tests the PCR Test and the Lateral flow Test - both of which are designed to help you detect if you have covid 19.  There is also an antibody test, not widely available, which will let you know if you may have had covid 19 and have antibodies in your blood.

QuickLinks:

+ Book your covid 19 vaccine……

+ Order a free lateral flow test…..

+ Purchase a self-referral PCR test…….

+ Purchase an antibody test……….

Types of Coronavirus Tests

Let's look in more details at the two different coronavirus tests :

  1. The PCR test - Polymerase chain reaction
  2. The Lateral Flow Test 

Both use throat and nasal swabs and both issue a positive or negative result. They are however used very differently depending on whether you are displaying any symptoms of the virus.

PCR Covid Tests

Who Are PCR Tests For?

This is the test which tends to be advised for people who are showing symptoms of covid 19. Those symptoms may include a high temperature, a continuous cough and a loss of smell or taste.

You are also advised to get a PCR test if you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for covid 19. Other reasons to take a PCR test may also be to confirm a positive test result, to follow up on an unclear test result or NHS test and trace have asked you to be tested.

You may also need a PCR test to travel abroad but do check with your airline/travel agent and the foreign office website first. A PCR test for this purpose will have to be paid for by yourself.

If you have any symptoms of covid 19 you and anyone you live with should stay at home.

How Does The PCR Test Work?

The test detects the virus’s RNA-genetic material- in the sample. Enzymes known as reverse transcriptase and DNA polymerase are added to the swab to make copies of any viral DNA that is present. Copies of the RNA are then picked up by primers which show that the genetic material has been found.

What Does a PCR Test Involve?

If you are aged 12 or over, you can do the test yourself. It involves using a long cotton bud and taking a swab of the inside of your nose and the back of your throat. The sample is sent away to a lab where they will look to see if your sample contains any genetic material of the virus present. The PCR test is very efficient in detecting the virus even if you have a very low level of the viral RNA in your sample. Results are available from 24 hours to three days.

 

Lateral Flow Tests

These tests tend to be used for people who are not showing symptoms of covid 19. It is however important to do a rapid test twice a week as you may have covid 19 but are asymptomatic. With lateral flow tests you do not need to send your swab away, you will get the result in around 30 minutes, you will see that the reader is very like a self-pregnancy test kit.

How Does The Lateral Flow Test Work?

The lateral flow tests work in a very different way to PCR tests in that they do not detect viral genetic material. Instead, they detect proteins specific to coronavirus in the sample.

What Does A Lateral Flow Test Involve?

Before doing a lateral flow test do remember not to eat for 30 minutes before the test, check that the kit is not damaged in any way and start the test within 30 minutes of opening it. Ensure that your hands are clean. You will rub the swab over your tonsils, then swab inside your nose. You should have the result within 30 minutes.

Where To Get Covid Tests?

Lateral flow tests are free for anyone whether they have symptoms or not. In fact, the government are encouraging people to get tested frequently as a way for further managing the virus. They can be obtained in pharmacies, some workplaces or can be ordered online…………

PCR tests are offered free for people displaying symptoms, for those who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, for essential workers or for people who have been asked to get tested by a GP or hospital.

To purchase a PCR test as a self-referral……….

Covid Antibody Test

The covid antibody test is not yet widely available in the UK. Its purpose is to check if you have had covid 19 in the past. However, some people who have had covid do not have antibodies.

The antibody test works by checking for the presence of antibodies in your blood. Antibodies are produced by the body when you get an infection, so if you have covid 19 antibodies in your blood then it is highly likely you have had covid 19.

As it is estimated that between 17% and 20% of all coronavirus infections are asymptomatic many people simply don’t know if they have had the virus. Taking this test can help people to answer that question and maybe provide some reassurance.

Free antibody tests are currently only available to people taking part in research or those people who work in primary care. At the moment antibody testing is helping scientists to understand more about the virus. 

Many of the tests available will tell you if you have antibodies and also the level of antibodies found in your sample, which may help you understand your body’s immune response. It is important to note that testing positive for covid antibodies does not mean you are immune from covid 19. It is important to note that only the vaccine will provide you with protection against the virus.

You can purchase an antibody test at a private clinic, or you can purchase an antibody test from a private provider and complete the test at home.

If you complete the test at home, you will need to provide a blood sample which is normally done by pricking the end of one of your fingers with a lancet. You will then send the blood sample off to a lab where most providers say you will receive results usually within 2-3 days.