COVID-19 is a highly infectious respiratory disease that has affected millions of people worldwide. The COVID pandemic has had a significant impact on the way we live our daily lives, including the way we access medical services. One of the developments in the fight against the pandemic is the availability of COVID-19 tests that can be done at home. These tests are designed to provide people with a convenient and reliable way to detect the presence of the virus in their bodies without the need to visit a healthcare facility. However, like any other medical product, at-home COVID-19 tests can expire, and it’s important to understand what that means.
At-home COVID-19 tests are diagnostic tools that use different techniques to detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. There are two main types of at-home COVID-19 tests: antigen tests and molecular tests (also known as PCR tests).
Antigen tests detect proteins from the virus, while molecular tests detect the virus’s genetic material. Both types of tests have different expiration dates, and it’s important to understand how they work and how to properly use them.
Antigen tests are a type of rapid diagnostic test that can detect the presence of the virus in the body. These tests work by detecting specific proteins (antigens) that are present on the surface of the virus. Antigen tests are relatively easy to use and can provide results in as little as 15 minutes. During the COVID era, health practitioners have referred to these as “rapid tests.”
The expiration date for antigen tests varies depending on the manufacturer and the type of test. Generally, antigen tests have a shelf life of 6 to 12 months, but this can vary depending on storage conditions. Antigen tests should be stored at room temperature, and it’s essential to check the expiration date before using them. During the pandemic era, the FDA extended the shelf life and expiration date of rapid tests at least twice. Check your rapid test expiration dates on the FDA website.
Molecular tests, also known as PCR tests, were said to be the “gold standard” of COVID-19 testing. These tests theoretically work by detecting viral genetic material using a process called polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Molecular tests are said to be highly accurate and can detect the Sars-Cov-2 virus even in small amounts. They are also more complex than antigen tests and require a laboratory to process the results.
Molecular tests have a longer shelf life than antigen tests, and they typically last up to 24 months if stored correctly. The expiration date for molecular tests also varies depending on the manufacturer and storage conditions. Molecular tests should be stored at room temperature or in a refrigerator, and it’s important to check the expiration date before using them.
At My Care labs, we offer both types of COVID testing for free if you have insurance. You can order your own at-home rapid kits or get tested with us using the PCR test. We also provide mobile testing on-demand for groups of 3 or people. Lastly, you can always walk in or schedule an appointment with us throughout the week.
Why Do At-Home COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests Expire?
Like any other medical product, at-home COVID-19 tests expire because the chemicals and materials used in the test degrade over time. Antigen tests, for example, contain antibodies that can lose their effectiveness over time, leading to inaccurate results. Molecular tests, on the other hand, contain enzymes that can break down and lose their ability to detect the virus.
It’s essential to use at-home COVID-19 tests before their expiration date to ensure their accuracy. Using expired tests can lead to false-negative or false-positive results, which can be dangerous. False-negative results can give people a false sense of security, leading them to unwittingly spread the virus to others. False-positive results can cause unnecessary panic and stress and lead to unnecessary medical procedures and treatments. Your best bet is to use a PCR test to be absolutely sure with a high accuracy COVID test.
At-home COVID-19 tests are a convenient way to detect the presence of the virus in the body. However, it’s important to understand that these tests can expire, aren’t always accurate, and should be used before their expiration date. Antigen tests typically have a shorter shelf life than molecular tests and should be stored at room temperature. Molecular tests have a longer shelf life and should be stored at room temperature or in a refrigerator. Using expired tests can lead to inaccurate results, which can be misleading or dangerous. If you have any questions about what type of testing you should need, feel free to call My Care Labs at +1-800-790-4550.