PCR Vs. Antigen Test: What’s The Difference And Which One To Get?

Covid-19 continues to course through our country with new variants, requiring our knowledge of the virus to evolve with it. This includes not only understanding the vaccines, but also understanding the types of tests available to us. Two standard tests are PCR and Antigen. While all testing is critical to preventing the spread of Covid-19, it’s best to recognize which testing method may be preferable for you and your loved ones. Let’s take a look at the differences between them.

PCR test

The PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test is considered a molecular test. They are also referred to as diagnostic tests. They are taken via nasal swabs. Some are done as a saliva test; however, this is less common. The collected sample is then converted into DNA, where it can be positively identified if present in the sample.

Standard PCR tests must be sent to a lab for processing and may take 1 – 3 business days to return results. Rapid PCR tests can be processed onsite and typically produce results within hours.

Antigen test

Antigen tests are often also referred to as a viral or rapid tests. An antigen test detects a protein coating the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Typically, these are collected through nasal swabs and then placed into a solution to identify the virus. These types of tests can produce results in as little as fifteen minutes. Because antigens tests are affordable and don’t need to be sent to a lab, they are ideal for large groups and events, as they allow many individuals to get tested in a short time frame.

What’s the difference?

Both tests detect an active case of Covid-19. Beyond the ways these tests detect Covid, the main difference between the PCR vs. antigen test, lies in the timeframe and accuracy.

  • While the antigen tests are often much quicker, they are not as accurate as a PCR test, especially in the early stages of Covid-19. This test has a higher rate of producing ‘false negatives’. This is because they may have a lower sensitivity, which means they may miss some infections and may require multiple tests to ensure the virus is not present.
  • When looking at testing time frames, the PCR tests usually take much longer. This is because results usually must be sent to a lab. The results can be received from 1-3 days. PCR tests are highly accurate and do not often need to be repeated. More recently, rapid PCR tests have become available at select clinics and healthcare providers. These results are typically received the same day.

Other testing options

It’s important to note that antibody tests are also widely available. These should not be used to determine if you currently have Covid-19. Instead, these are tests meant to detect if you have already been infected with the virus, regardless of whether you had symptoms. This is crucial to understanding how our population may adapt to the virus and how those with antibodies respond to exposure to other variants.

Ways to get tested

If you are experiencing symptoms of Covid such as cough, fever, or loss of taste/smell, you must get tested immediately. This is critical to prevent the further spread of the virus.

With testing being encouraged and often required for travel, there are many different places you can get results.

  • You can check with your local clinic or urgent care center for same-day appointments.
  • Your county or state is also likely to have a testing site finder that may provide nearby testing options.
  • You can also get tested at home, which is not only a time saver, but the safest way to get tested.
  • You can obtain a DIY test kit from your pharmacy or many online retailers.

DIY test kits vs tests with a medical professional

At-home tests are convenient and affordable, but they are often not reliable. Since the nasal swabs can be uncomfortable, many people may pull back or not insert the swab far enough to successfully detect any infection.

Completing at-home tests compared to a medical facility gives less data to contribute to widespread understanding and data collection of Covid. Testing is best done by a professional for accuracy.

In-Home Testing With Drip Hydration

When looking at the PCR vs. Antigen test, it’s essential to recognize your priorities. How quickly do you need your test results? How long have you been experiencing symptoms? Are you worried about inaccuracies? These are all questions that you should consider before choosing your test. Do your part to prevent further infection and get tested if you or your loved ones are experiencing any symptoms.

Drip Hydration offers in-home Covid testing including the rapid antigen test, standard PCR test, and rapid PCR test. These are quickly scheduled at a location of your choice and administered by a registered nurse. Results are available in as little as 15 minutes and can be administered to a group or family all at one time.

Call today or book an appointment using the button below to schedule your test.



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