COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests

Novel Coronavirus COVID-19
 

About Rapid Antigen Tests



COVID-19 rapid antigen tests detect proteins on the surface and inside of the COVID-19 virus. These proteins are released after breaking up the virus using a simple soap solution, which is provided with the test.

These tests are easy to use and give results quickly. Most provide a result within 10 to 20 minutes, which reflects your health status at the time of the test.

Rapid antigen test kits are currently available free of charge at many locations across the province. Manitobans are encouraged to pick up and keep some rapid tests on hand, before they develop symptoms. This will help ensure you have a self-testing option available in case anyone in the household develops symptoms in the future. To find a location near you, visit https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/testing/locations.html

The PCR test performed at a laboratory is still the “gold standard” test because it is more sensitive. For some people, and in some circumstances, it is recommended that a PCR test be provided. For more information on testing recommendations, visit: About PCR Tests.

 



How to use a rapid antigen test 

Check which kind of test you have, by examining the labels on your test supplies. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. There are small differences between different types of rapid antigen tests, so do not assume the steps are the same. Pay particular attention to how to collect the best sample and the incubation time (the time you need to wait until you read the results). Not following the steps properly, including not waiting long enough or waiting too long to read the test result, can lead to an incorrect result. Note: a faint line is still a positive.

Tests are for single-use only which means you can only use each test ONCE and then it must be thrown away in the garbage. Do not use a test (including the swab) more than once or attempt to use one test on different people. Also, if the test has expired, do not use it.

Although manufacturers’ instructions may state otherwise, the tests listed below have been determined as acceptable for self-test or home use and are suitable for symptomatic testing. The manufacturers’ instructions may include recommendations on isolation or further testing, but these are not specific to Manitoba. 

Instructions:

The following steps are required to perform a nasal swab for a rapid antigen tests. Remember to consult the manufacturer guidelines below for full instructions on how to perform a test and read results.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to perform the test:

 





Frequently Asked Questions

Rapid antigen test may be used for children. Most of the rapid antigen tests authorized for use by Health Canada are for use on individuals two years and older. However, doing a swab on a young child or a child who is unable to stay still can be challenging and caution should be taken. For children, rapid antigen tests should always be done by an adult. For youth, they should be supervised by an adult. See the instructions provided with the test for any safety instructions to follow if using the test on a child.


Self-testing or at-home testing may not be suitable for everyone. Some examples of when a self-test or at home test is not suitable include:

  • individuals who are unable to follow directions - this may be due to their age (chronological or developmental) or if there is a language barrier
  • individuals with a health condition that makes them or others assisting them unable to perform a nose swab, do the test, or read the result - e.g., a neurological disease that makes it hard for them to self-swab
  • individuals who are unable to safely perform a self-swab or it is unsafe for someone at home to swab them - e.g., difficulties holding their head back or difficulties holding their head still
Individuals who are symptomatic, recommended to be tested and are unable to take a self-test should visit a health care provider.

Rapid antigen tests can be used if you have COVID-19 symptoms. For more information on symptoms of COVID-19, see manitoba.ca/covid19/info-for-mbs.html.

For most situations, you do not need a confirmatory PCR test if your rapid antigen test result is positive. Public health recommends confirmatory PCR only for a few situations. For more information, visit Testing Eligibility.

Positive rapid antigen test
If your rapid antigen tests result is positive, you need to consider yourself as having COVID-19 and should isolate.

You should isolate for 5 days after your symptoms start and until you have no fever and your other symptoms have improved over the past 24 hours. You should also avoid non-essential visits to high-risk settings (e.g. personal care homes, health care facilities, etc.) and non-essential contact with individuals at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease for 10 days after your symptoms started. As well, you should wear a well-made, well-fitted mask during this 10-day period if or when you have contact with other people. For more information, see the fact sheet(s) at https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/updates/resources.html#factsheets

Treatment for COVID-19 is now available for people at higher risk of severe disease, including those who have been vaccinated. Treatment is only effective in the very early phases of infection, so it’s important to get referred quickly if you are eligible. If you have a positive rapid antigen test please visit Treatment for COVID-19 for more information and to find out if you are eligible, or call Health Links - Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or (toll-free) at 1-888-315-9257.

Negative rapid antigen test
If your rapid antigen test result is negative, you may still have COVID-19. You could still be contagious and the test is simply not picking it up. It can take some time for the amount of proteins to increase high enough to be detectable by rapid antigen tests.

If you used a rapid antigen test because you have symptoms, it is recommended you repeat the test again after 24 hours to see if it is still negative. If the repeat test is negative and you have access to another rapid antigen test, it is recommended you repeat the test again after another 24 hours.

Although your rapid antigen tests are negative, you should continue to isolate until you do not have fever and your other symptoms have been improving over the past 24 hours. If you have been told to self-isolate (quarantine), you should also still finish your initial self-isolation (quarantine) period.

Even with a negative rapid antigen test, it is important to continue following public health guidance including staying home if you are sick, washing your hands frequently, and using additional measures such as physical distancing and wearing a well-made, well-fitted mask when you are sick or based on personal risk and preference. If your symptoms worsen you should speak with your health care provider or call Health Links - Info Santé at 204-788-8200 or (toll-free) at 1-888-315-9257.

Invalid Test
If your rapid antigen tests result is invalid (doesn’t match negative or positive), repeat the test.


In general, public health does not recommend testing if you do not have symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus, but most individuals develop symptoms within the first week. Most importantly, self-monitor for symptoms and follow the public health guidance including checking yourself for symptoms, staying home if you are sick, washing your hands frequently, and using additional measures such as physical distancing and wearing a well-made, well-fitted mask when you are sick or based on personal risk and preference.

If there is a case or symptomatic person in your household, while they are isolating, household members should be very cautious and avoid any non-essential visits to high-risk settings and non-essential contact with individuals at high risk for severe disease from COVID-19. All household members should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 for 14 days following exposure. Health care workers should check with their occupational health on any additional requirements before returning to work.

If you develop symptoms, you should isolate immediately and check the online COVID-19 screening tool to see if testing is recommended for you. rapid antigen tests can be used if you have COVID-19 symptoms and you should follow the guidance in the above section I have symptoms, should I use a rapid antigen test?

If you use a rapid antigen test when asymptomatic, it is important to remember the following:

  • a negative rapid antigen test does not rule out COVID-19. You should continue to follow public health guidance even after a negative test. If you develop symptoms after a recent negative rapid antigen test, do not assume that your negative test means you don’t have COVID-19. You should isolate and check the online COVID-19 screening tool to see if testing is recommended for you.
  • Anyone with a positive COVID-19 test, including a self-administered rapid antigen test, should consider themselves as having COVID-19. They should isolate and follow the public health guidance in the fact sheet(s) found here: https://www.gov.mb.ca/covid19/updates/resources.html#factsheets. For most situations, individuals do not need a confirmatory PCR test if their rapid antigen test result is positive. Public health recommends confirmatory PCR only for a few situations. For more information, visit: Testing Eligibility.

In general, public health does not recommend testing if you do not have symptoms. If you use a rapid antigen test when asymptomatic, it is important to remember that the result only reflects your health status at the time of the test and a negative test does not rule out COVID-19. Even with a negative rapid antigen test, it is important to continue following public health guidance including checking yourself for symptoms, staying home if you are sick, washing your hands frequently, and using additional measures such as physical distancing and wearing a well-made, well-fitted mask when you are sick or based on personal risk and preference.

If you develop symptoms after a recent negative rapid antigen test, do not assume that your negative test means you don’t have COVID-19. You should isolate and check the online COVID-19 screening tool to see if testing is recommended for you. rapid antigen tests can be used if you have COVID-19 symptoms and you should follow the guidance in the above section I have symptoms, should I use a rapid antigen test?

If your rapid antigen test result is positive, you need to consider yourself as having COVID-19. You should isolate and follow the public health guidance in the fact sheet(s) found here: manitoba.ca/covid19/updates/resources.html#factsheets. For most situations, you do not need a confirmatory PCR test if your rapid antigen tests result is positive. Public health recommends confirmatory PCR only for a few situations. For more information, visit: Testing Eligibility.


Unlike PCRs, which can continue to be positive for several months after you have recovered, rapid antigen tests should not be positive if you have recovered. This is because rapid antigen tests are less sensitive than PCR tests and are much less likely to pick up an old infection. If you have recovered from COVID-19 and have a positive rapid antigen test, you need to consider yourself as having a new COVID-19 infection and should isolate and follow the public health guidance in the fact sheet(s) found here: manitoba.ca/covid19/updates/resources.html#factsheets


Health Canada advises there are potential risks associated with COVID-19 rapid antigen tests if they are misused, or if the kit solution is accidentally eaten or spilled on the skin. When using tests, keep the solution away from your mouth, avoid eye and skin contact, and wash your hands thoroughly after use. To learn more about the public advisory visit:
https://recalls-rappels.canada.ca/en/alert-recall/rapid-antigen-test-kits-and-potential-exposure-hazardous-substances


Each manufacturer of rapid antigen tests has determined a different expiry/shelf-life for their product. If you have Abbott PanBio or Quidel QuickVue tests, the expiry date printed on the packaging may be incorrect. Health Canada has extended the shelf life of these tests to 24 months from the date of manufacture. Individuals who have these rapid tests at home should use the date of manufacture printed on the packaging to determine the true expiry date and disregard the other expiry information. Health Canada's extended approval took place after the packages were printed and tests were distributed.

If your test kit has expired, it can be safely discarded in household waste. Many kits can be separated into recyclable paper and regular waste.




Resources

COVID-19 Rapid Antigen Tests - Public Health Factsheet