Using Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT)

Learn more about rapid antigen tests, what they do, and how to use them.

rat test kit

Published 14 Jul 2022

Rapid Antigen Test (RAT): What Does It Do?

The COVID-19 self-testing kit is a simple, fast, and accurate way to detect whether you've been exposed to the virus. The test uses throat or nasal swabs to collect samples from the inside of your nose or throat, which means you won't need to touch any surfaces or contact others.

This test detects antibodies produced when you’re infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This test does not diagnose the disease itself.

If you’re exposed to the virus, your body produces antibodies within two weeks. These antibodies help protect you against future infections.

Your immune system may produce these antibodies for several months after exposure. So, if you take this test within 14 days of being exposed to the virus, you should be able to find out if you were infected.

However, if you wait longer than 14 days, finding antibodies decreases significantly.

There are many types of RAT test kits, each designed to detect a particular pathogen. The most common type is called a lateral flow assay. This type of RAT uses a small strip of paper coated with two different colored liquids. One liquid contains a reagent that binds to the target pathogen. The second liquid includes a dye that flows through the paper and mixes with the first liquid when the target pathogen is present.

When the user applies the sample to the test strip, the pathogen causes the two liquids to mix, resulting in a color change that indicates the presence of the pathogen.

What Are the Benefits of Using a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Kit?

There are several benefits of using a RAT kit, including:

  • Convenient and easy to use
  • Results in minutes
  • Portable and easy to store
  • It can be used at home or in remote health clinics
  • No special training is required
  • Affordable
  • Screens a large number of people quickly

How Accurate Are COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Self-Test?

Because rapid antigen self-tests are quick and easy to perform, they’re often used in emergency rooms and testing clinics. However, because they’re not 100% reliable, they should only be used as a diagnostic tool. The reason is that this type of test uses antibodies to detect the presence of the virus.

Our immune system produces antibodies, which are proteins that help us fight off viruses. The production of antibodies is triggered by the presence of antigens, substances like pollen and microorganisms that are considered foreign by our body. So, when we come down with a cold or flu, or get exposed to SARS-CoV-2, our body produces antibodies that bind to the antigens in the virus.

However, not everyone who comes down with a cold or influenza develops antibodies. For some, they never do. Others may develop weak antibodies. But others may develop strong ones.

That means that the accuracy of Rapid Antigen Testing depends on how many antibodies your body makes against the virus.

If you’ve recently experienced a cold or flu, your body should have produced enough antibodies. But, your body will not create antibodies if you haven’t been exposed to the virus recently.

So, what does this mean for you? If you’ve had a cold recently, your body should have made plenty of antibodies against the virus. You’ll likely get a positive result from a RAPID Antigen Test designed for that virus.

However, suppose you’ve had no recent exposure to the virus, and your body hasn’t made any antibodies yet. In that case, you may not get a positive result.

A negative result doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have COVID-19. It may be that your body didn’t produce enough antibodies to identify the virus or, depending on when the test was taken and when the exposure happened, that there’s not enough antibodies at the time of testing.

The same goes for previous exposure to the coronavirus. Even though you may have developed antibodies against the virus, those antibodies may interfere with the test results, causing false negatives.

What Is the Difference Between a PCR Test and a Rapid COVID-19 Test?

The main difference between these two tests is speed.

PCR testing requires lab equipment and trained technicians. The test takes several hours to complete, and results may take more than a day to come back.

On the other hand, rapid tests require only a simple swab sample and a home test kit. Results are available within 15 minutes.

It means that RATs are ideal for those who need immediate results. They’re also great for individuals who may not be able to wait until the results of PCR testing are returned.

Consider getting a rapid antigen test kit if you want to find out whether you have COVID-19 or not.

How to Use Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Kit?

Here are steps on the proper way of using the COVID-19 rapid antigen test kit. Please note that some RAT kits may have some variation on the steps so make sure to read the instructions on the box first.

1. Wash your hands

It is important to wash your hands first before opening the box and using the RAT test kit.

2. Collect the sample

 The next step is to collect the sample. It can be done by nasal swab or throat swab.

3. Prepare the test kit

Once the sample has been collected, it’s time to prepare the test kit. It involves placing the swab into an extraction buffer tube and mixing the sample with a buffer solution.

4. Perform the test

Drops of the extracted sample should be applied to the testing kit and placed on a flat surface. You should see the results in 15 minutes or so.

5. Read the results

If two lines appear in the control line, the test is positive, indicating that you have COVID-19. If only one line appears, the test is negative, and you don’t have COVID-19.

It’s important to note that false positives and false negatives can occur with RATs. If you think you may have COVID-19, or suspect a false positive/negative, it’s best to get a PCR test to confirm the diagnosis.

Is Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Safe?

Generally, yes, the nasal and throat swab self-test is safe. Very few risks are associated with using it as long as the steps are followed as indicated on the RAT test kit.

The most common side effect is discomfort from both swabs. Some people may also experience a mild burning sensation in their nose or throat. These side effects are usually temporary and go away on their own.

Rare side effects include nosebleeds, headaches, and dizziness. Stop using the test and see a doctor as soon as you experience these side effects.

Where Can I Buy Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) Kit? 

There are a few places where you can buy the Rapid Antigen Nasal Swab Self Test Kit. One place is your local pharmacy. Another option is to buy it online. You can also find it in some stores that sell medical supplies. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Can RATs Be Used for Children?

RAT tests can be used for children. Children under two years old shouldn’t be tested without an adult present. An adult must perform testing. Safety precautions should be followed when testing children.

What if the Test Result Is Positive?

If your test result is positive, you should self-isolate and contact your local public health department for further instructions. You may also need to get a confirmatory PCR test.

What if the Test Result Is Negative?

You are unlikely to be infected. However, if you have an onset of symptoms or a high risk of being infected, please continue to test frequently and closely monitor your health condition.

Should I Use RAT if I Don’t Have Any Symptoms or Known Contact With Individuals With COVID-19?

If you have no COVID-19 symptoms and have not been exposed to COVID, there is no need to take a RAT.

Should I Use RAT if I Don’t Have Symptoms and Was in Contact With Individuals With COVID-19?

If you have been in contact with individuals with COVID and do not have any symptoms, please self-quarantine for 14 days. You should take a RAT on the 7th and 14th days during the quarantine period. If both test results are negative, you can leave self-quarantine (be aware that local authorities may have their own regulations on the number of days for self-quarantine).

If you develop symptoms during self-quarantine, get a confirmatory PCR test immediately and consult a health professional.

What Should I Do if My RAT Kit Has Expired?

Each manufacturer of rapid antigen tests determines a different expiration date for their products. Once your test kit expires, you should throw it away in household waste. You can separate this item into recyclable paper or regular trash.

Clungene RAT Test Kit by SafetyCulture

This rapid COVID-19 antigen test is designed to detect the presence of antibodies in the blood serum of individuals who may be infected with SARS-CoV-2. It detects the presence of IgM and IgG antibodies against SARS-CoV2.

The test kit comes with the following:

  • 5 x test cassettes
  • 5 x extraction tubes
  • 5 x swabs
  • 5 x waste bags
  • Instructions

It is simple to use, can be performed unsupervised, and produces results in 15 minutes.

Robertson Paredes

SafetyCulture staff writer

Rob Paredes

Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.

Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.