What Is Rapid COVID Testing And How Does It Work?

Understand rapid COVID testing and its efficacy in disease detection. Next Health explains the process and importance of quick results. Read to learn more today.

What Is Rapid COVID Testing And How Does It Work?
Next Health Staff
December 6, 2023

As the COVID-19 virus progresses and we wait for vaccinations to roll out to the general public, it’s important that we all stay up-to-date with our testing. COVID-19 symptoms can initially be mild before spiraling out of control. Therefore, getting tested if you think you have been exposed to the virus is the most responsible decision you can make for both your health and the health of others.

There are multiple types of COVID-19 tests available. Most people choose one of two types: PCR nasal swab testing, which gives you results within a few days, and rapid antigen COVID-19 testing, which can give you results in as little as 20 minutes depending on your testing location.

But what exactly is rapid COVID testing and how does it work? Let’s take a deeper look at this testing method and explore how it determines whether you have contracted COVID-19.

Rapid COVID Testing: An Overview

When you need to be tested for COVID-19, there are two main options: in-depth tests that take longer to provide detailed results and rapid tests that are quicker but less accurate. Also called “antigen tests,” rapid tests are relatively inexpensive and can provide very fast results for those who take them.

On the downside, rapid COVID-19 testing is not as accurate as the more in-depth PCR nasal swab testing used by most major organizations. However, rapid COVID-19 tests can still be useful under certain circumstances.

People generally pursue rapid COVID-19 testing if they need an approximate look at their health in case they need to travel over the next day or so. They may also take rapid tests if they have recently been exposed to COVID-19-infected individuals and several days have passed, giving the virus enough time to spread through their bodies and be detected by these kinds of antigen tests.

Rapid COVID-19 testing can also be a great preventative and proactive health measure for those who may be attending family gatherings, work events, or other community activities.

How Do Rapid COVID Tests Work?

In a nutshell, rapid COVID-19 tests work by measuring viral antigens. Antigens are compounds that inform your body’s immune system that it needs to produce more white blood cells and perform other immune system responses to defeat a spreading infection. Though they sound similar, antigens and antibodies are not the same. Antibodies are produced, in fact, in direct response to antigen detection.

Basically, rapid COVID-19 tests check for antigens, which are signs that your body’s immune system has already detected COVID-19 and is gearing up for a response.

Because these tests measure antigens that your body produces in response to detecting COVID-19 viral cells, rapid tests can only detect COVID-19 if you are fully infected or nearing the peak of your infection. With many illnesses, including COVID-19, by the time you have started to show symptoms of a disease, your body is already working at beating back the virus responsible.

How Accurate Are Rapid COVID Tests?

Although rapid COVID-19 tests are not as accurate as PCR nasal swab tests, these antigen tests can still be useful. They perform best when people are in the early stages of a given COVID-19 infection. This is when the viral load (or the concentration of viruses cells) in the body is at its highest point. Therefore, rapid tests are more likely to detect any COVID-19 antigens if they exist.

But rapid COVID-19 tests can often miss an infection if your body is not at its highest point of infectivity.

For example, if you were exposed to COVID-19 a day prior to taking a rapid test, the antigen test may not detect any antigens. This is because your immune system might not already be preparing to eradicate the virus from your system.

Furthermore, if you have already had COVID-19 and your body has defeated it (i.e. you showed very mild symptoms and recovered quickly), the antigen tests might also miss the infection since antigen levels throughout your body may have decreased in the meantime.

Still, rapid COVID-19 tests are better than not getting tested at all. Note, however, that rapid COVID-19 tests do still use the same nasal swab method as the more comprehensive PCR test.

The process is as follows:

  • You’ll visit your rapid COVID-19 testing location.

  • The test administrator will use a long and narrow cotton swab to collect mucus cells from the back of your throat and/or nose.

  • Since they have to push the swab far back into your nose, the process is often uncomfortable. But it should never be painful.

  • The cotton swab is then placed in a sealed receptacle and sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Next Health’s rapid COVID-19 test works the same way. Appointments only take about five minutes once you arrive, and you’ll be able to get results in about 20 minutes since we have laboratory analysis equipment in our facility, and if you prefer not to wait in our beautiful and spacious outdoor plaza, we can always email the results to you as well.

Once the test is done, you can sit in one of our socially distant waiting areas until your results are in. Our entire facility is set up to facilitate safety and comfort for both our patients and our medical staff.

It’s important to note that both rapid COVID-19 tests and PCR nasal swab tests use the same application method. Therefore, you should not necessarily try to take the rapid test if your last experience with the nasal swab test was uncomfortable. Both tests, while uncomfortable, are important to determine if you’re healthy.

Where Can You Get A Rapid COVID Test?

As mentioned, you can find rapid testing for COVID-19 right at your local Next Health clinic. Our facility is fully certified and licensed to administer COVID-19 tests to people in their areas. We have three testing locations in total: two in Los Angeles California and one in New York, New York.

Each testing location administers the same test and follows the same procedures.

It is important to note that Next Health is only equipped for proactive testing. Please stay at home or visit an urgent care facility if you think you may have been infected with COVID-19.

You can also find rapid COVID tests at licensed and regulated facilities throughout the country. WHO centers provide COVID-19 testing for free. You may be able to get a rapid COVID-19 test at your workplace depending on the equipment they have on hand and whether they work with local medical centers and hospitals.

Next Health provides customers with super bills upon request to submit to their insurance carriers for partial reimbursement. We also provide mobile testing for groups and corporations, so businesses can open safely.

Do Negative Rapid COVID Test Results Allow You To Travel?

Typically, yes. Most travel companies and organizations that have imposed testing restrictions require you to have a rapid antigen test at a minimum. You do not necessarily have to take a more in-depth PCR nasal swab test and wait up to 72 hours for results before traveling.

But you should double check this restriction before making plans. Other organizations or travel companies may have stricter rules and require a PCR test instead.

As a result, rapid antigen testing could be a good choice if you want to make sure you can make your travel arrangements but also need to get tested for COVID-19 due to potential exposure.

This being said, remember that rapid COVID-19 testing is not as accurate as PCR testing. An infection-free result is not necessarily a guarantee that COVID-19 is not in your system. The virus may indeed be in your body, but may not have taken hold. Or, it might be in the very early stages of infection.

Because of this caveat, it’s always recommended that you pursue PCR testing if you are worried about contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to other people.

Fortunately, Next Health also offers PCR COVID-19 testing at the same licensed locations mentioned above. You can use the same clinics for both rapid antigen testing and traditional PCR testing depending on your time constraints and needs.

Not sure which is right? Give us a call and we can discuss your options, as well as walk you through a step by step outline of what each test entails. We can also accommodate group appointments if you and your family or partner want to get tested at the same time for maximum safety.


All in all, rapid COVID-19 testing is an excellent way to quickly check if your body is showing the signs of COVID infection. These antigen tests are reasonably accurate and are always a better choice than avoiding testing overall.

However, rapid COVID-19 testing is not as accurate as PCR COVID-19 testing. You should contact your doctor or organization and ask them which test is most important to take for your upcoming travel arrangements, work assignments, and other life events.

Whether you need rapid COVID-19 testing were PCR testing, Next Health is here to help. At our licensed facilities, we can provide all kinds of preventative COVID-19 tests as soon as you make an appointment. You can make appointments well in advance and each test only takes between 5 and 10 minutes depending on the test type.

Once your test is finished, we can contact you once we have results so you can modify your plans accordingly. Contact us today to schedule your COVID-19 testing session.

Additionally, if you do test positive, Next Health has immune-boosting services to aid in your recovery from COVID-19, including immune-boosting peptides and supplements that can be shipped to your home. After your 10 day quarantine as recommended by the CDC, you can further your immune-boosting protocol with services at Next Health including: Super Immune IV, NAD+ Therapy, Glutathione, and Ozone Therapy. Six weeks after a positive test, you can also take an antibody test to see if you have antibodies. Persons that test positive for antibodies are eligible to donate plasma at Cedars Sinai Hospital that could be potentially used as life saving treatments for patients in the ICU with COVID19.




https://www.memorialhealthcare.org/whats-the-difference-between-covid-19-rapid-and-prc-tests /

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