What Should I know about COVID-19 Antibody Tests?

COVID-19 testing across the U.S is beginning to expand and provide more options for patients to make informed decisions about returning back to work.

However, patients may not be entirely sure about what types of testing are most beneficial for their situation. For example, a high-risk patient may need more comprehensive and rapid testing while a low-risk patient simply needs to detect the presence of COVID-19.

The consistent growth in COVID-19 testing access can help patients slowly return to their normal way of life. But being able to choose the appropriate test is equally important. Here is how patients can choose the right test: whether it is COVID-19 antibody tests or diagnostic testing.

COVID-19 antibody testing checks for an immune system response

A COVID-19 antibody test, or a “serology test,” is a test that checks to see if your immune system is producing antibodies that have fought off a previous COVID-19 infection.

Patients that are asymptomatic (without known symptoms) and believe they were exposed to the coronavirus in the last few weeks benefit from antibody testing. A low-risk patient may want antibody testing to help determine the following:

  • Determine if they have been exposed to the coronavirus and had previous immunity
  • See if they could be an asymptomatic carrier, which could put them at risk for infecting another patient
  • Make an informed decision about resuming work and life activities outside of quarantine

COVID-19 swab tests are for patients that need to detect a current infection

COVID-19 swab testing is ideal for patients that believe they have a current infection. Unlike an antibody test, a swab test is for patients to determine if their symptoms or current conditions are related to a COVID-19 infection.

Swab tests, or diagnostic testing, help patients determine if they have COVID-19, regardless of their symptoms. A symptomatic patient (sneezing, coughing, fatigue), or a patient that knows they have been exposed to another person infected with COVID-19, benefits from a swab test.

The result of a swab test indicate if a patient has the coronavirus, but does not determine their immunity to the virus’s symptoms. A patient that has a significant risk of spreading COVID-19, or could be high-risk for fatal symptoms, may need swab testing to determine next steps for quarantine or potential emergency triage.

As a rule of thumb, use antibody testing if you are low-risk and believe you may have prolonged exposure or immunity to COVID-19. A swab test is simply to determine an active COVID-19 infection. Any other questions patients may have can be fielded by our urgent care staff!