Covid testing has come a long way since 2020. Back at the start of the pandemic, tests were unreliable and nearly impossible to get, but now most of us can find a same-day appointment at drive-thru testing sites across our states. Even better, we now have access to at-home Covid tests so we don’t even have to leave the house. These tests are incredibly convenient but in order to accurately read your test, it’s helpful to have pictures of positive at-home Covid test results to use as a point of reference.
Are home Covid tests reliable?
Given that the virus itself is so new and still has so many unknowns, it’s fair to wonder whether or not at-home Covid tests are reliable. Thomas Denny, MSc, MPhil, a Professor in Medicine at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University School of Medicine, tells Romper in an email, “Yes [at-home Covid tests are reliable], but as with all testing platforms they have advantages/disadvantages.”
The disadvantage of an at-home test is that it isn’t nearly as sensitive as a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test that you’d get at a doctor’s office or another medical testing site. Because of this, you’re more likely to get a false negative with an at-home Covid test than with a PCR test. According to Denny, false negatives happen around 15-20% of the time with at-home Covid tests, particularly when they’re taken early on in the infection (which isn’t as much of an issue with PCR tests). False positives, however, only happen 1-2% of the time.
The best way to ensure your negative result is correct is to keep testing, Denny says. “[False negatives] can be countered by repeat testing over a few days,” he explains, “Repeated negatives increase the certainty of a true negative.”
How and when to take a Covid test
“One of the biggest variables to all testing is to have a good quality swab process,” says Denny, so it’s extremely important to read and follow the directions that come in your at-home Covid test so that you can get an accurate result. As for when to take an at-home Covid test, there is no perfect answer. “When an individual turns positive is related to the specific variant, because they have different incubation periods, and how much exposure someone has had” Denny explains.
Your best bet is to take a test as soon as you start experiencing symptoms, or once you know you’ve been exposed. If it comes back as a false negative at that point, Denny says you’re “most likely not able to transmit [the virus] to others on that day.” However, don’t trust the negative result right away, wait another day or two and take another test (and possibly another a day or so after that one).
How will you know if the test is positive, though? Here are some photos of positive Covid test results to help you read your result.
According to Denny, “Testing is an important tool to limit infections to others and we need to continue to develop strong testing capacity in the U.S.” Using these photos of positive Covid test results as a point of reference can be very helpful in determining whether or not you’re positive for the virus.
Thomas Denny, MSc, MPhil, Professor in Medicine at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute at Duke University School of Medicine