If you’re confused about why you’re always testing negative on your home antigen test, even though you’re experiencing Covid symptoms, you’re not alone.
More and more people are reporting that their home tests are negative with clear symptoms of Covid-19 – fever, fatigue, muscle aches, loss of taste and/or smell – and experts are looking into testing BA.5. mutation is the cause.
BA.5 and BA.4 cases take a little longer for some people to show up positive from antigen testing, according to Esther Babadi, M.D., chief of clinical microbiology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
“When a mutation occurs, it can change the structure of various proteins, which can lead to reduced antigen detection,” says Babadi. “Also in previous BA.4 and BA.5 infections, you may have a lack of SARS-CoV-2 protein.”
Here’s what you need to know
While experts are working to determine the exact cause and its link to the new variant, other possibilities remain dormant.
According to Babaday, it may be the brand of the test that causes the negative results.
“The difficulty of trying to make one statement for all rapid antigen tests is that there are so many on the market and they are not all the same,” says Babady, “So when we say it doesn’t work, it could also be related to a specific brand.”
But currently, infectious disease experts don’t know whether antigen testing can detect BA.5, and it’s too early to make that claim, Mohamed Z. Satti, an infectious disease specialist and lecturer in public health. Michigan State University.
Satti believes people should use home antigen tests if they have symptoms or have been in contact with someone with Covid. “So far, from all the data I’m seeing, home testing is still working and sensitive enough to be dependable,” Satti says. “People should still continue to check at home.”
According to a recent medRxiv study, there is no significant difference in the accuracy of home antigen tests at the pre-print stage between omicron variant detection compared to delta detection.
With that in mind, Satti points to another possible reason for the prevalence of negative results: the inaccurate use of home antigen tests. Medical professionals are more skilled at testing than the average person, and false negatives may be due to people doing the test incorrectly at home, he says.
What to do if the test is negative but you are still sick
In addition to home testing, consider a PCR test if you can afford it. PCR tests have always been more sensitive than antigen tests, Babadi says, and are a great option if you’re concerned about the accuracy of your home test results.
You can search for local testing locations using the Department of Health’s Community Based Testing Site Locator for Covid-19, which lists options for your state. Alternatively, the Covid-19 testing locators provided by CVS, Walgreens or Rite Aid are great tools for setting up testing appointments.
“If someone suspects they have BA.5 and their antigen test is negative, the PCR test will rule it out,” says Babadi.
If you can’t get a PCR test, test multiple times with home antigen tests over several days, says Kevin Dickhaus, chief of infectious diseases at UConn Health. Many people get multiple tests to confirm their test results, but if symptoms persist, consider testing three times over three days, with 24 hours between each test, Diekhaus says.
“Classically, you’d have to get two negative tests within 24 hours to really believe it,” he says.
It is important to consider that it could be just a cold or an allergy. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergies affect more than 50 million people in the United States each year. In recent months, experts have been seeing more cases of the flu and other respiratory viruses that are more common in winter.
Regardless of the test results, if you’re experiencing Covid-like symptoms, Babadi recommends isolating if possible and wearing a mask at home around others. Even mild symptoms can turn into severe symptoms for someone else, especially if they’re more at risk than you, she says.
“We are still at a point where the respiratory infection could be SARS-CoV-2,” says Babadi. – Even if not [Covid]You don’t want to spread another virus to someone else.”
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