FDA warns of false negatives with at-home COVID-19 tests

Posted at 6:19 AM, Aug 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-29 09:07:37-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Testing for COVID-19 at home might take you several tests before you get definitive results. Last week, the FDA issued an advisory for people to help reduce the risk of a false negative with at-home testing.

If your initial test is negative, the FDA says to be cautious and test again after 48 hours if you have symptoms or have been exposed. If the second test is negative, the FDA recommends the third test at home or a PCR test.

“The key is, if you're worried about being infected, to go ahead and test yourself again,” explains Dr. Robert Schooley, an infectious disease specialist with UC San Diego Health.

He explains the two tests are reliable, but the at-home isn't as accurate if people test too early when the viral load is not high enough to be detected, something that would happen with the PCR that would get sent to a lab for analysis.

“The virus is present in enough quantity to be picked up by the PCR test, but it is still below the limit of detection for that antigen test which is not quite as sensitive,” says Dr. Schooley.

Dr. Schooley explains that at-home tests are still necessary to slow infection spread and says they'll be key later in the year when the flu returns since the symptoms are similar.

To read the full FDA recommendation click here.