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5/31/20blog post

at-home COVID-19 testing kits Q&A

It’s hard to talk about COVID-19 without talking about testing. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of an at-home testing kit for COVID-19 that a person can purchase after getting an order from a medical professional.

While the testing method may sound appealing, Sherman Alter, MD, division chief for infectious disease at Dayton Children’s Hospital, cautions that the test comes with its own set of risks. 

what are some potential issues associated with the at-home kits?

  • One problem with at-home kits may be that an adequate sample for testing might not be easily or correctly obtained. 

  • The current FDA-approved test uses a swab that only needs to go as far as the nostril. It might be easier to collect than one that goes deeper into the nasal passage. However, it might be more difficult to get enough sample to get an accurate result. 

  • These tests will initially be available to healthcare workers and first responders. Later, the hope is that these will be available to consumers. All specimens will then be forwarded to a lab for testing.

how accurate are the in-home tests?

  • Initial testing suggests that these tests are fairly accurate. However, there is an underlying chance that some may demonstrate false-negative results. 

  • Despite manufacturers stating that their coronavirus test may have an outstanding ability to detect infections and be specific in identifying coronavirus, their accuracy may be hard to define. 

  • Some rapid tests are having 10 to 15% false-negative rates. 

  • For example, a 15% false-negative rate implies that for every 100 patients who were infected, 15 would be inaccurately classified as negative. This means they would be told that they were negative for COVID-1 when they’re really positive.

  • Future studies should clarify some of these issues. It’s important to fully discuss all results with your healthcare provider. 

we’ve been hearing about testing for COVID-19 using saliva. is this an option for individuals wanting to get tested?

  • A test has been developed that detects the virus material in saliva, which should be easier to collect. These appear initially to be as accurate as testing using deep nose or throat swabs. However, future accuracy will be made clearer as the testing is more widely utilized.

For now, the best guidance is to continue the use of infection prevention measures, which include wearing a face mask in public, good handwashing practice, and continued physical or social distancing of six feet from others.

Alter Sherman
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Sherman Alter, MD

division chief infectious disease
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updates on COVID-19

Please use our coronavirus information hub for resources and answers to frequently asked questions about Dayton Children's response to COVID-19. You can also call our COVID-19 parent hotline at 1-888-746-KIDS (5437) from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm for additional questions. 

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