The pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives, and if you run a business, you’ll know this only too well. While working from home has become the new normal, coronavirus has forced companies to change the way they do business, potentially forever. We’ve also had to get used to regular Covid testing, with many firms requiring their staff to do weekly lateral flow testing before coming into the office. But while these tests may have become a way of life now, how much do you really know about lateral flow tests?
What is a lateral flow test?
Lateral flow tests (LFTs) detect Covid-19 in people who do not have symptoms of coronavirus. It’s estimated that as many as one in three people with the virus could be asymptomatic – but if left undetected, the person could easily spread the virus without knowing. LFTs detect the proteins that are present in a person with Covid-19. It’s a handheld device with a read window on one end and an absorbent pad on the other. A strip of test paper is inside the lateral flow device, which will change colour if coronavirus proteins are present. Results are ready in 30 minutes.
Who should have a lateral flow test?
LFTs are for people who don’t have coronavirus symptoms but work in the NHS, social care, care homes, schools and universities, and other workplaces and are required to test themselves regularly. In these circumstances, LFTs are available for free in the UK from the NHS.
People are also required to take a lateral flow test when they return to the UK from travelling abroad. However, tests for travel are not available from the NHS and must be purchased from a private provider. Medicspot’s day 2 lateral flow tests can be used by travellers either returning or coming to the UK on day two after their arrival. Another LFT is required on day five.
How to take the COVID-19 lateral flow test
There are two types of LFT. One requires a person to take a swab of their nostrils and back of the throat, while the other type of LFT only requires swabs of the nostrils. After taking your sample, you’ll need to dip the swab into the extraction solution and then drip some droplets of the solution onto the device’s absorbent pad. The result will be ready in 30 minutes.
Understanding your results
LFTs have a control line to confirm that the test is working correctly, along with a test line.
- Your result is negative if you see one line next to C
- Your result is positive if you see two lines (even if they are faint), one next to T and one next to C (even faint lines
- Your test is invalid if there are no lines or one line next to T. You must take the test again with a new test kit
Even if your result is negative, this doesn’t guarantee that you don’t have Covid-19. It’s possible that the test is not detecting the virus because you were in the incubation period at the time of the test, or you have only very recently been infected. Continue following the Covid-19 guidelines of wearing face coverings when required, social distancing, and regularly washing your hands.
What to do if your lateral flow test result is positive
If your lateral flow test is positive, you must arrange a PCR test within 24 hours, either at a test centre or by ordering a home PCR test kit. If your PCR test result is negative, then you are not required to self-isolate. However, if your PCR test is also positive, you must self-isolate for ten days from the date of your lateral flow test result.
Even as we continue to move out of the pandemic slowly, lateral flow tests are likely to be part of our routine for some time to come. Policymakers, healthcare professionals, and now even the public recognise the value of these tests and how they contribute to helping us control the spread of Covid-19.