Corona rapid tests: how reliable are they?

corona rapid tests
Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / SamuelFrancisJohnson

Rapid corona tests are still a practical and popular way to test yourself for the virus at home. But how reliable are the test results now?

With typical cold symptoms, many people use rapid corona tests to rule out infection with the virus. After all, the test can be carried out easily and conveniently at home. After only 15 minutes you will have the result. If it’s negative, you can breathe easy. Or?

As at the beginning of the pandemic, rapid tests do not initially offer 100% accuracy. According to the RKI, false positive and false negative results are therefore possible. The meanwhile increased immunity in the population and the characteristics of the omicron variants also affect the validity of the rapid tests. However, they remain an important and easily accessible tool.

Corona tests: how do they react to Omikron?

The Paul Ehrlich Institute initially reports that rapid corona tests also work with the omicron variant. The senior physician and microbiologist Marc Lütgehetmann tells the NDR that they work even better with Omikron than with the Alpha or Delta variants, for example.

In the meantime, however, many people have been vaccinated and/or have been infected with Corona at least once. As a result, the immune system already “knows” the virus. According to the NDR, the body therefore reacts more quickly to the virus and the typical symptoms appear much earlier. So we can already have a runny nose, sore throat or fever while the body actually still has a low viral load. If we then test ourselves, the rapid test may still be negative. But that could simply be because the viral load is not yet high enough for the test.

In addition, the virus with the omicron variant initially multiplies more in the throat area, according to the infectiologist Claudia Denkinger to the NDR. This explains why throat swabs sometimes work earlier than nasal swabs.

According to Lütgehetmann, antibodies also react more strongly to the virus protein nucleocapsid if the body has already experienced a corona infection at least once. The antibodies then capture the protein faster. However, rapid tests use this N protein, among other things, to detect an infection. Especially at the beginning of a Covid infection, the missing protein could also increasingly lead to false negative results.

It is therefore always advisable to repeat the test the next day or a few days in a row.

Corona rapid tests: How to use them safely

For a reliable test result, you should carry out the test carefully according to the package insert.
For a reliable test result, you should carry out the test carefully according to the package insert.
(Photo: CC0 / Pixabay / analogicus)

If you notice symptoms of a cold, it still makes sense to test yourself for Corona using a rapid test. If the result is negative, this does not necessarily mean that you really do not have Corona.

In order for the result of a quick test to be as meaningful as possible, according to ÖkoTest you should observe the following points:

  • Read the instructions on the package insert carefully again beforehand.
  • Blow your nose thoroughly to move the discharge from the back of your nose forward.
  • Insert the stick about an inch into each nostril, one at a time, twisting it back and forth at least five times.
  • Then leave the cotton swab in the supplied liquid long enough. Follow the instructions on the package insert.
  • Drop the solution onto the test cassette. How many drops are needed is also on the leaflet.
  • Read the test result after 15 to 20 minutes. Here, too, you should note the information for the respective test.
  • If only a very thin and faint line appears on the T, you should assume an infection and act accordingly. You can find out more about this here: Preparation helps: what to do if the corona test is positive?


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