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All health health services Rapid antigen testing for home use - but what is it?

Rapid antigen testing for home use - but what is it?

 Senior woman sitting at home, studying the instructions for a home rapid antigen COVID-19 test

21 October 2021


2 min read

Testing yourself at home for COVID-19 without a health professional has already been a reality for some people overseas at different stages throughout the pandemic.

And, from 1 November 2021 it will also be possible in Australia through rapid antigen testing products which meet the requirements of the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Here's what you need to know.

What are rapid antigen tests? 

Rapid antigen tests are a screening tool used to help detect potential COVID-19 virus indicators which can usually display the results within just 15 to 30 minutes.

They are not however a diagnostic tool that can definitely test or establish the presence of COVID-19. Rapid antigen tests can detect COVID-19 virus indicators but they are not as accurate as the standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 tests currently used in Australian testing clinics.

An antigen, such as a viral protein, is a substance which the body recognises as harmful or foreign, resulting in the immune system producing antibodies against it.

The rapid antigen tests generally work by trying to detect whether your body has produced antibodies to the COVID-19 virus, however they do not provide a diagnosis of COVID-19 infection.

Individuals must always follow the instructions listed on the relevant test and still continue to follow the latest health advice and restrictions in their area, including what actions they need to take if they receive a positive or negative rapid antigen test. Positive test results or symptomatic persons require immediate confirmatory testing with a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test and negative test results do not exclude infection with COVID-19 (so face masks, social distancing and good hygiene practice must be maintained in accordance with government guidelines).

How do you use them?

Each test has its own unique and special instructions and the product may not be right for you or allowed to be used in your state or territory.

You will need to read the label and follow the product instructions prior to use and follow the guidance recommended by your national and local health departments. 

For more information speak to your GP or healthcare professional.

Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board October 2021

This article provides you with some information only, so you are aware of what these tests are in general. This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice, product advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health you should consult with a health professional and follow government guidelines.