Planning a holiday party? Doctors say you'll need at-home antigen tests - but with these 2 caveats

Denise Dador Image
Friday, December 3, 2021
2 things to keep in mind when using at-home COVID tests
Doctors say rapid antigen tests will be something you'll need in your medicine cabinet this holiday season -- but with these two caveats.

Amid the new COVID-19 variant and rise in cases, over-the-counter at-home test kits are in high demand. Now, a new White House initiative will make it easier for many Americans to use them.

Doctors say rapid antigen tests will be something you'll need in your medicine cabinet this holiday season. But here's what you should know about the rapid tests.

Rapid tests are less sensitive if you don't have symptoms

"Testing is very, very critical. Particularly self-testing at home to find out if you or your loved ones are positive. A rapid antigen test is just that. It's a very rapid test, but it's looking for the antigen, or the protein on the surface of that virus," said Dr. Anthony Cardillo of Mend Urgent Care.

However, he cautions that these tests are less sensitive if you don't have any symptoms. In other words, it's more likely to result in false negatives if you're asymptomatic.

"People who are asymptomatic are very dangerous when they go to gatherings or parties, family get-togethers because they don't know that they're sick, " he said.

President Biden announced a plan Thursday for a winter coronavirus strategy that includes making at-home rapid tests free.

What should you do if you test positive?

Verify rapid tests with a PCR test

"You should immediately consult your doctor and also get a verification with a PCR test if you have a positive result and also quarantine immediately and start that process, " Cardillo said.

If you're planning to host a holiday party, Cardillo said it's also a good idea to ask your guests to take a self-test the day before or the morning before the party.

"Some places are actually testing at that moment. The only downside of that is it's really uncomfortable when you get to a party and then you test and then you have to go home because you're positive. Plus, you're already there, exposing yourself to people. So it's always best in the quiet of your home... to make sure that you are not positive," he said.

There's a new plan in the works for people to get reimbursed for these at-home tests. The Biden administration says it will release guidelines on Jan. 15 directing private insurance companies to reimburse Americans.