With kids returning to school and many adults heading back to the office or traveling, something as simple as a cough or runny nose might lead to panic and the need for a COVID-19 test. But because of the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines, the topic of testing and which one to use has fallen off our collective radar. Whether at a pharmacy, urgent care center, or testing site, it’s now easier than ever to get a COVID-19 test. You can even buy a kit online or at a drugstore to test yourself and get results in your own home. In fact, there are so many different options, and it can be confusing.

To help clear your doubts, the experts at TapLabs want to help you understand the different tests so you can determine the best one for you. In this blog post, we are outlining what each specific test does and when and how you should use the COVID-19 PCR Test and Rapid Antigen Test.

The purpose of the COVID-19 PCR Test and Rapid Antigen Test is to detect whether you have an active infection of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. You can typically purchase these tests for the purpose of work, school, and even international travel as test results must be produced to the airline, border authority, and other officials to board a departure flight or carry out your daily tasks safely. But, how do you know which one you require?

First, you must understand what the two tests do. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Tests are sent away to a laboratory to diagnose a person with COVID-19. PCR Tests are used to directly screen for the presence of viral RNA, which will be detectable in the body before antibodies form or symptoms of the disease are present. This means the test can tell whether someone has the virus very early on in their illness. PCR Tests are considered the gold standard for COVID-19 detection. As a result, these tests are required by many countries for entry by travelers.

Rapid Antigen Test is a point-of-care test designed to detect COVID-19 infections more quickly. With this test, samples do not need to be sent away to a laboratory for confirmation. Instead, the results are typically produced within fifteen minutes. With a rapid antigen test, a nasal sample is placed on a small absorbent pad, which is then drawn along the pad via a capillary line to a strip coated in antibodies, which bind to SARS-Cov-2 proteins. If these proteins are present, this will show as a colored line on the test, indicating infection. Certain Rapid Antigen Tests are now accepted for travel to the United States. They can even be an excellent tool for detecting and mitigating infection spread at work sites, large events, and other social gatherings.

Because the samples are, for the most part, collected in the same way for both, the differences between the two tests are largely in how they’re processed. The PCR Tests are generally more accurate and mostly processed in a laboratory, which takes longer. The Rapid Antigen Test can be processed almost much anywhere, including in doctor’s offices, pharmacies, or even at home. Now, deciding which type of test to get can be a little more complicated. For diagnosing people seriously ill (with a presumed case of COVID-19), doctors will generally use a PCR Test because false-negative tests might result in inadequate treatment. If you are traveling, you might also be required to get a PCR Test. The location you are visiting might require a certain type of test and approved testing locations as well. For surveillance, such as at schools or workplaces, antigen tests work well. As it might be required to get tested every day, and Rapid Antigen Tests are your best option. You can do them much quicker and easier for a smaller fee. For up-to-date information on COVID test requirements for international flights, travelers are encouraged to review the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. You can do that by clicking here. You will also need to go through the testing requirements for international travelers on the Government of Canada website. Please click here to see the testing requirements.

If you are looking for a mobile lab collection service in Calgary, then reach out to TapLabs. Our mobile collection service offers a convenient and affordable means for individuals to complete necessary and sometimes urgent blood, urine testing and now even COVID-19 testing in the comfort of their own home, workplace, or other desired locations. No longer will patients have to endure long wait times, miss work or school, and expose themselves and their loved ones to potentially infectious diseases in public waiting rooms. Our mobile specimen collection solutions are available to individuals with a doctor’s requisition, medical research laboratories, assisted living facilities, home care agencies, and insurance providers. We collect and transport all types of specimens that a healthcare provider may request and use for diagnosis and treatment or for researchers conducting pre-clinical and clinical trial investigations.

For a complete list of our services, please click here. If you have any questions about the COVID-19 PCR or Rapid Antigen Tests, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us here. You can also give us a call at (403) 860-6540 and one of our staff will attend to your needs.