The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has thrown many people into the deep end of medical terminology. Suddenly, the news is using words like antigens and antibodies, or referring to things like PCR testing, which is something most people are unfamiliar with. Understanding these things is crucial for your and your family's health, but they are not often explained well. Here are some of the main terms to be familiar with as you're navigating coronavirus tests.
Tests for Previous COVID-19 Infection
Some tests are available to test if you have had the COVID-19 virus in the past. These tests are often known as antibody testing. When your body encounters a new disease, it creates something known as an antibody. This antibody is used to protect your body against that disease in the future. If the test detects antibodies in your system, then that indicates that you have had the disease in the past. The test basically lets you know if your body has already started to build a defense against the coronavirus.
Tests for Current COVID-19 Infection
When you need to know if you have COVID-19 currently, there are a couple of different ways you can do that. There are two main types of tests for a current infection of COVID-19, antigen testing, and PCR testing.
Antigen testing, also known as the rapid test, is a test to see if your body currently has the COVID-19 virus in it. An antigen is a substance from outside your body, like a virus, that enters your body and can cause harm. If the test comes back positive, it means that it has found the virus in your system and you are sick. These tests are fast and convenient. They can be done at home and you can have immediate results. If this test indicates that you have COVID-19, it's best to get it confirmed by a doctor.
PCR testing is an in-depth test that very accurately lets you know if you have COVID-19. PCR is a laboratory procedure that makes a lot of copies of genetic material very quickly. This makes the sample you gave easier to analyze, but it takes longer and needs to be done in a lab. PCR tests can begin at home, but will need to be taken to a lab to get the results back. These tests are often done in doctor's offices or other testing locations.
If you are struggling to know what COVID-19 test you should take, or don't know what to do next, ask your doctor. They can help you know how to proceed with testing or a positive COVID-19 test.