At this point, anyone who has been bitten by the travel bug is itching to get back on the road in search of the next adventure. But even with your eyes on the horizon and your bags already packed, it’s important to make health and safety a priority. Getting tested for the coronavirus is a must before traveling, not just for your peace of mind but also to ensure you’re not putting other people at risk when you travel.
With a variety of tests from different health care providers, it can be confusing to figure out which test to take, where to get it, and even when to take it. To help travelers navigate the waters of COVID-19 testing, we’ve put together a simple (and idiot-proof) guide on the most widely used tests available and where to get them done.
There are three main categories of tests that are available to the public: molecular tests, antigen tests, and antibodies tests.
While all of these are used to check travelers for COVID-19 infection, each has its own method and purpose. Do you want to know if you have an active infection or are you getting tested to see if you’ve had the virus in the past? The test you need depends entirely on what you want to know—or what your destination of choice requires.
Here’s a breakdown of the different types of tests and what they can tell you.
Dubbed as the gold standard of COVID-19 tests, molecular tests like PCR (polymerase chain reaction) detect the genetic material or RNA of SARS-CoV-2 in the mucus sample from the nose or throat, where the respiratory virus is most likely to be found. It is considered the most accurate and sensitive test for identifying an active infection.
- Method of testing: Nasal or throat swab
- Turnaround time: Hours to a day
- Pros: Highly accurate, sensitive to tiny amounts of the virus even in the early and late stages of infection
- Cons: Expensive, longer turnaround time than antigen and antibody tests (although some facilities now offer same-day PCR tests)
- Who it is for: Travelers or employees who may be required, anyone displaying the virus’ symptoms, people looking for the gold standard of COVID-19 testing
If you’d rather take the test in the comfort of your own home, opt for an RT-PCR Test home service by Alcheon Medical Corporation.
Like molecular tests, antigen tests look for the presence of the virus in your system. But instead of searching for the virus’s genetic material, this diagnostic test detects the antigens or molecules found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2. It should be noted that while antigen tests are considered reliable, it tends to be less accurate than molecular tests, particularly if the viral load in the sample is low.
While some places require RT-PCR tests, others like Baguio accept tourists with negative results of antigen tests taken within 72 hours prior to entry to the city.
- Method of testing: Nasal or throat swab
- Turnaround time: Within one hour
- Pros: Fast, convenient, highly accurate for positive results, more affordable than RT-PCR tests
- Cons: More likely to produce false negatives than RT-PCR tests, less effective in the later stages of infection
- Who it is for: Travelers or employees who may be required, anyone displaying the virus’ symptoms, people looking for a cost-effective alternative
Know your status now with a convenient home service antigen test with Alcheon Medical Corporation.
The antibody test, also known as a serology test, is a bit different from the two other diagnostic tests as it does not actually detect the virus. Instead, it looks for the antibodies produced by your immune system to fight off the SARS-CoV-2.
Keep in mind that antibodies aren’t detectable until several days after infection, so these tests aren’t recommended until at least 14 days after symptoms emerge or exposure to an infected person. While antibody tests aren’t recommended for detecting current infections, it is effective in tracing past infections.
- Method of testing: Blood test
- Turnaround time: Within an hour
- Pros: Fast, convenient, cost-effective
- Cons: Cannot identify infection in the early stages
- Who it is for: Anyone who wants to be aware of previous infections
Stay on top of your health and well-being during the pandemic by getting tested for the coronavirus. Moreover, it’s our responsibility as travelers to avoid bringing the virus to our destination—call it an extension of the Leave No Trace principle! After all, elderly or immunocompromised individuals are more vulnerable to the virus than fit tourists, and locals from remote provinces may not have easy access to healthcare and medical facilities.
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to Test Before Travel. Visit KKday for convenient COVID-19 testing options as well as pandemic essentials, like face masks and face shields. Stay safe out there!
Words by Celia Nachura
Featured image via PhotobyTawat on Shutterstock