When is the best time to get tested for COVID-19?


Can an at-home COVID-19 test detect the virus in its early stages?

An at-home COVID-19 test may not give you the most accurate results if you take it too soon after symptoms begin.

If you start experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, your first thought may be to run out and try to find a test.

However, testing right away with an at-home test may not provide you accurate results. 

MORE: At-home Covid test kits become scarce as new questions arise about accuracy

“If you get tested between that 3-5 day mark you’re more likely to get an accurate result,” said Dr. Asha Shajahan a family medicine physician for Beaumont Health and the medical director of Community Health for Beaumont Grosse Pointe.

Shajahan said the viral load may not be high enough to be detected by an at-home test early on. Lab tests are more accurate at detecting Covid in its beginning stages.

Related: Where to get a COVID-19 test in Michigan

If you are planning to do an at-home test, multiple tests over the course of several days will provide a more accurate result.

Are COVID-19 at-home tests accurate?

You can buy a COVID-19 test at the store, but how reliable are these at-home tests?

“You want to do the first swab on the first day and save the second one for the second day. So at least having two tests in a row will give you more of an accurate answer,” Shajahan said.

If you cannot find one of the highly sought after at-home tests and are not able to schedule a test right away, do not go to a hospital for a test, Shajahan said.

“I would treat any cough, cold, sore throat as Covid until proven otherwise,” she said. 

Severe sore throat, runny nose — omicron symptoms resemble flu, cold

So, if you are feeling sick and can’t find a Covid test, quarantine until a test is available.

Read: Michigan health department updates quarantine recommendation for COVID-19

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