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How Reliable Are At-Home COVID-19 Tests? We Got Experts To Clear Our Doubts

Ravina SachdevRavina Sachdev  |  May 21, 2021
How Reliable Are At-Home COVID-19 Tests? We Got Experts To Clear Our Doubts

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Even after multiple lockdowns and vaccination drives, our battle with the deadly virus remains far from over. Thankfully, we seem to have hit peak and are onto a slow and steady decline. However, that does not mean you can plan a house party with your friends. We still have to stay indoors and wait for the number of cases to further reduce. Also, get tested ASAP if you show any symptoms otherwise it may prove fatal. 

Speaking of which, there are a number of states where getting tested could be a long wait. Just two weeks ago, my sister in Delhi had to wait for 5 days to get her test results in hand. From what she told me, a lot many lab guys even refused to do the test as they were overburdened. This is the rather unfortunate current situation in the country.

 

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Amidst this, the approval of the COVID-19 home-kit comes as a blessing in disguise. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has given its nod to the country’s first home-based, self-use rapid test for COVID-19. Yep, that means you can now get tested at home and even get your results in just 15 minutes.

Since it’s a completely new product, it’s understandable that many have doubts about it. Which is why we spoke to two experts and got them to explain the how, why and what if for you. 

We already know that the test kit named Coviself will cost Rs 250 and can be bought without a prescription from pharmacies and online. “The at-home Rapid antigen tests with results in 15 mins are very beneficial for a wide-scale screening, and approved by ICMR,” said Dr. Kiran Khushal Patil, M D Medicine Consultant Physician consulting at S L Raheja Fortis in Mahim and Hinduja in Khar.

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Who Can Get The Test Done?

Wondering who can take the test? “The ICMR has made it clear that only symptomatic individuals and immediate contacts of people who tested positive in the laboratory should use the home test,” clarified Dr Kiran. Simply put, do not use the kit just for the sake of it and buy it only if you fall in the mentioned category. 

Is It Reliable?

We understand that since it‘s new, one can’t help but wonder about the reliability of the kit. “Rapid antigen tests are generally considered less sensitive than lab-based RT-PCR tests,” admitted Dr Kiran. This means that it can show false negatives in case of low or mild infection. The results are more accurate in case of a “high viral load.” Even so, they do have an accuracy rate of 85% to 90% and are found reliable.

Do I Have To Get RT-PCR If I Test Positive On The Kit?

So what really happens once you get your test results? Well, if you’re positive, you’re considered a ‘true positive’ case. “All individuals who test positive may be considered as true positives and no repeat testing is required,” Dr Manashree Sankhe, Lecturer at Dr D.Y Patil hospital, Pune, made it clear to us. But, that isn’t the case when you test negative. “All symptomatic individuals who test negative by RAT should get themselves immediately tested by RT-PCR as per guidelines,” adds Dr Kiran. He also mentioned how it’s vital to cross-check with an RT-PCR once and not consider the home test as the end convict.

Do I Have To Consult A Doctor?

According to the guidelines, there’s one important rule that applies to all the different types of self-testing kits available in the market. “Remember that you are self testing and not self diagnosing. Which is why it’s crucial to follow up with your doctor regardless of the result,” adviced Dr Manashree.

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You know what’s easier than taking any at-home COVID-19 tests? Staying safe indoors! So stay indoors at all times and only step out (with safety precautions) if you absolutely must!

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