The BA.4 and BA.5 variants make up more than 90% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the highly contagious subvariants of omicron run rampant through the country, many people are turning to home tests to see if they’re infected.
Can you trust at-home COVID-19 tests to catch sneaky BA.4 and BA.5?
While the two new subvariants are better at evading prior immunity, they’re not any better at evading testing. At-home tests and lab tests are just as good at detecting BA.4 and BA.5 as past variants.
There’s another issue, however, that might be complicating things, explained Dr. Kevin Most, chief medical officer at Northwestern Medicine’s Central DuPage Hospital, in an interview with WGN.
“A lot of people aren’t getting tested,” Dr. Most said. “Individuals who are testing, you have to make sure you’re testing at the appropriate time. If you run out and test that first day, you might not test positive.”
If you think you have COVID-19, but are still testing negative, try another test 24 to 48 hours later. The CDC recommends testing five days after a close exposure.
If you continue to test negative despite having prolonged symptoms, it’s possible you could be sick with something else.
“We also have to understand — regular infections are back. So the regular, generic, good old sinus infections, and bronchitis and upper respiratory infections, are certainly back,” Dr. Most said. “If you have full-blown symptoms for three or four days, and you’re still testing negative, there’s not going to be a doctor that says, ‘Here, take Paxlovid.’ We’re going to be watching you for a bacterial sinus infection or something else.'”
Listen to the full interview with Dr. Most below:
When it comes to any variant of COVID-19, the accuracy of an at-home test depends on your ability to follow instructions, said Dr. Jaquelin Dudley at the University of Texas. Most of the tests come with very specific step-by-step instructions — and they should be followed closely. Self-testers should make sure to swab both nostrils for the appropriate amount of time and wait patiently to see results.