How do rapid tests work? And are they actually accurate? Get answers to common questions from parents.
How do rapid tests work? And are they actually accurate? Get answers to common questions from parents.

Answers to Parents’ Most-Asked Questions About At-Home COVID Test Kits

At-home COVID tests offer fast results without a trip to the doctor whenever there’s worry about a possible infection—giving families reassurance and helping to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Whether it’s a trip to see the grandparents or one of those dreaded exposure emails from school, there are so many reasons you might want access to an at-home COVID test these days. Quick and easy for parents and less likely to cause tears than a trip to the pediatrician, over-the-counter options like the QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test get you results in about 10 minutes from the comfort of your own couch. (And I can attest to it, because we recently swabbed the whole family to make sure a summer cold was nothing worse!)

So, how do these rapid tests work for kids and adults? And are they actually accurate? Read on for answers to some of parents’ most-asked questions about at-home COVID testing, from the team at QuickVue.

What Parents Need to Know About At-Home COVID-19 Tests

What is a rapid antigen COVID-19 test?

Like most other at-home COVID tests, QuickVue offers what’s called an “antigen test,” often dubbed a “rapid test.”

Antigen tests are designed to detect proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19 using nasal swab samples. Antigen tests are very specific to the virus, but not as sensitive as molecular tests (also known as PCR tests). Because of that, a positive result is highly accurate, but a negative result does not completely rule out the possibility of infection.

Note that the QuickVue test, along with a number of other at-home COVID-19 tests, are for use under FDA emergency use authorization (EUA) only. You can read more about what that means here.

How does an at-home COVID-19 test work?

It varies a bit from one at-home test to the next. With QuickVue, you’ll need to collect a sample from your nose or your child’s nose by rubbing the provided swab along the inside of both nostrils. Next, you place the sample in a tube of reagent along with a test strip and, after ten minutes, you can take the strip out to see your results. For a demonstration of the test, you can watch this instructional video.

Does an at-home COVID test hurt?

An at-home COVID test shouldn’t hurt. Adults may find the swab to be a bit uncomfortable, but the ability to control it yourself in a self-administered test setting can really help. Kids shouldn’t have more than a little discomfort either, but if your child is very nervous, you may want a second adult to help keep their head in place while you collect a sample.

If you or your child do feel pain while performing the test, just stop and reach out to a healthcare provider.

How long does it take to get at-home COVID test results?

Generally, the tests take a few minutes to set-up (remember to wash your hands!). From there, turnaround times vary, but QuickVue at-home COVID test results are available in as little as 10 minutes.

Why do so many at-home kits come with two tests?

With at-home rapid testing, it’s recommended that you test yourself or your child twice within a window of a few days, so two tests are often provided.

The QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test is intended to be used twice by the same person over 2-3 days, with at least 24 hours or no more than 36 hours between. By testing more frequently, you might actually be able to detect COVID-19 more quickly and help reduce spread of infection.

Are at-home COVID tests accurate?

Based on the interim results of a clinical study where the QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test was compared to an FDA authorized molecular SARS-CoV-2 test, QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test correctly identified 83.5% of positive specimens and 99.2% of negative specimens.

The performance of this test is still being studied in patients without signs and symptoms of respiratory infection and for serial screening. It’s possible that performance differs in these populations.

Will this test detect COVID-19 variants?

The QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test has been able to detect all known variant strains in recent studies. The creators of the test are confident it remains unaffected by mutations, but they are continuing to monitor the situation closely.

QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Tests are fast and easy, giving you results in as little as 10 minutes.

What is the age range for the test?

The QuickVue test can be used on anyone 2 years or older. Kids over 14 can collect their own samples.

Make sure to check any at-home COVID test kit for its exact age specifications. Kids under 2 generally need to be seen by their pediatrician or at a testing center or medical facility.

Will the test work if I don't have symptoms?

The test is intended for those with or without symptoms, or with any other reason to suspect they may have COVID-19.

Can people who are vaccinated still use this COVID test?

Yes. Anyone who’s concerned about the possibility of having COVID-19 can take the test. Your vaccination status will not skew the results.

What do I do if I test positive?

If you or your child has a positive result on a QuickVue or other at-home COVID test, it’s very likely that you do have COVID-19 because proteins from the virus that causes it were found in your sample. There is a really small chance that these tests can give a positive result that is wrong.

If anyone in your family tests positive for COVID-19, they should self-isolate as soon as possible. If a child too young to self-isolate is infected, you might consider other protective measures within your home, like masking and isolating them from other kids in the home. Reach out to your doctor or pediatrician for guidance and to see if you need to do additional testing.

What does it mean if I have a negative test result?

A negative test result means that proteins from the virus that causes COVID-19 were not found in your sample. That said, it’s possible for this test to give a false negative, so it is still possible that you’re infected and contagious.

If someone in your family tests negative but continues to experience COVID-19-like symptoms of fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath you should reach out to your doctor or pediatrician. They can help you determine the best next steps.

Where can I buy a rapid COVID test kit?

Try your local drugstore or head to Amazon. If you’re looking for QuickVue tests for the family, just visit and select “Where to Buy” to see a complete list of retailers.

Stay safe and healthy out there! And, as always, if you have any health concerns, consult your doctor.

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