As people slowly begin to return to school, work and other daily routines, we're becoming more reliant on COVID-19 testing to help keep the risk of another outbreak at a minimum.

But with so many different COVID-19 tests currently out there, including antibody and rapid tests, it can be kind of confusing to understand which one is right for you. Luckily, we've got you covered.

With the help of Hackensack Meridian Health, we've compiled this handy list of everything you need to know before getting tested for COVID-19. Keep on reading to learn more:

What types of COVID-19 tests are available?

  • Antigen tests use a swab of the nose or throat to collect a mucus sample, which is then tested on the spot to determine whether or not the specific proteins that appear in those who are at the peak of infection are currently present.
  • PCR tests similarly use a swab of the nose or throat to determine if the patient is positive for COVID-19, but rather than receiving your results on-the-spot you'll have to wait a few days since the test must be sent to a lab first.
  • Antibody tests use a sample from a blood draw or finger prick to tell if you had the virus at some point in the past and have since recovered by building up antibodies to fight the infection.

When to get a Rapid Test:

Rapid tests provide patients with almost immediate confirmation about whether or not they are positive for COVID-19. They generally take about 15 minutes or so but are not as reliable as the PCR test.

The types of people who should get a rapid test include:

  • People who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, muscle or body aches, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, new loss of taste or smell, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea).

The types of people who shouldn't get a rapid test include:

  • If you are free of COVID-19 symptoms, despite whether or not you have had first-hand or secondary exposure to someone who tested COVID-19 positive.
  • People looking to confirm their status and return to work or school after fighting COVID-19.
  • People looking to return to work or school after traveling who do not have symptoms.
  • People without symptoms who are required to receive a COVID-19 test prior to surgery or an in-patient hospital stay.

When to get a COVID-19 PCR test:

A PCR test is currently the most accurate test you can get to determine whether you are currently infected with COVID-19.

The types of people who should get a PCR test include:

  • People with symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People who are being admitted to the hospital for a medical procedure or surgery. Knowing if someone has a current COVID-19 infection helps health care providers plan accordingly, reducing the spread of the virus amongst patients and hospital staff.
  • People with unique situations may be advised by their doctors to be tested (e.g. if you have to return to work or other settings that may not allow for proper social distancing, your doctor may advise you get tested for the virus first, before entering an environment where transmission could occur).

When to get a COVID-19 antibody test:

Antibody tests are only to determine whether or not you were previously infected with COVID-19.

The types of people who should get an antibody test include:

  • People who want to know if they had COVID-19.
  • People who were directed by their doctor to get an antibody test.
  • People who want to help COVID-19 patients by donating plasma for convalescent plasma therapy.

Hackensack Meridian Health is dedicated to treating your ongoing medical needs and can provide COVID-19 evaluations and testing. Curbside car and drive-thru testing sites are available! Visit them online at to locate and schedule an appointment at a testing site near you.

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