Two of my sisters underwent coronavirus tests last week and now kindly share their experiences. Many of us are likely to be undertaking these tests over the next few weeks and months, so please share with anyone who you think may find this helpful.
What is the Coronavirus test?
This information relates to the coronavirus test (the antigen test), which is the one you need if you think you may have the virus.
An antibody test will be available shortly and this is the one if you think you have had the virus, to test if you have developed antibodies that may help protect you from a future infection.
If you need medical advice about your symptoms:
England: NHS 111 online coronavirus service
Scotland: NHS inform
Wales: NHS Direct Wales
Northern Ireland: get advice from a GP or GP out-of-hours service
If you are caring for someone with Covid19 there are many things you can do to help them.
Please help the NHS and only ask for a test if you or someone you live with has symptoms now.
When to ask for a test
- You need to have the test in the first 5 days of having symptoms.
- It’s best to ask for the test in the first 3 days, as it may take a day or two to arrange.
- Sometimes people sent invites specifically as part of research (as was the case with my sisters).
Who can ask for a test?
You can ask for a test:
- for yourself, if you have coronavirus symptoms now (a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste)
- for someone you live with, if they are experiencing coronavirus symptoms
This service is for people in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
People in Wales can ask for a home test kit here. For drive-through appointments at regional test sites in Wales, go to the coronavirus test bookings and process on the Welsh Government website.
The tests are not suitable for children under 5 years old. If you’re asking for a test for someone else and the person is age 13 or over, check they’re happy for you to ask for a test for them.
At home or at a testing centre?
One sister had a coronavirus home test. She recorded the whole experience, from watching the Government video to sampling and to the follow up survey. I hope this is helpful and reassuring for people wanting to know what to expect.
One of my other sisters, Lis, went to the drive-in centre at Edgbaston cricket club. Her experience could not have been easier. She made a booking through the .gov website https://www.nhs.uk/ask-for-a-coronavirus-test and took the necessary questionnaire, which was a quick and easy process. All done within 5 minutes. She chose a slot for the following morning (there was lots of availability). She and her husband drove to the cricket club – they needed ID and the bar code from the email. They drove straight in (no queue) and the test took 2 to 3 minutes. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t painful. The medical staff took the swabs and they drove home through the one-way system.
All efficiently organised through a one-way system army… and she received her results just over 48 hours later.
Below is a diary entry of Charlotte’s experience of the coronavirus home test, in her own words:
“Out of the blue a letter arrived (from DHSC, Imperial college London, NHS and Ipsos MORI) telling me I had been randomly chosen for a research project about coronavirus. I had to register online to agree to take part and a week later a package arrived with my Home Testing kit.
The kit has about 8 components and is a bit daunting at first but there is a clear instruction booklet. The instructions cover self-administering of the test or what to do if you need to take a sample for a child or another person. Before you do the test you need to book a courier slot for collection of your sample. The sample must be ready before 9am on the day that the courier is coming. On Saturday I booked my slot online and was told that they would pick up the sample sometime the next day. There is no charge for the service. On the Sunday morning, there was a two hour window in which the Yodel collection would take place.
Meanwhile, I was watched a video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lo6g-TYZ-c which talks you through each step of the test. This was very clear and I found it helpful to take some notes so I could remind myself of exactly what to do at each step.
On Sunday morning I duly set an alarm to make sure I was awake and ready. They recommend you do the test between 7-8am. I reminded myself of what I had to do by watching the video again. I laid everything ready on a clean surface, gently blew my nose and coughed as suggested and then went to wash my hands for the prescribed 20 seconds.
It was easy to open the swab packet at the stick end. Armed with a mirror I set about trying to rub the swab over both tonsils and the back of my throat for the suggested 10 seconds, taking care NOT to touch my tongue, teeth or gums. This was easier said than done! I had established where my tonsils were but they were very hard to get to right at the back of my throat as my tongue seemed to be in the way. I pushed the swab right to the back of my mouth but had to have several attempts as my gagging reflex was kicking in. By now my eyes were watering too. I’m sure I didn’t manage 10 seconds and think the swab may have touched my tongue once but I did my best. I must confess it was not a very pleasant or comfortable experience.
So, armed with the same swab, I then set about sticking it up each nostril in turn, rotating for several seconds. I’m pretty sure it was not for the 10-15 seconds recommended. That is a long time to twizzle a stick right up your nose!!
Then all I had to do was to insert the swab into the plastic vial and break off the stick in the middle. Screw the top of the vial on securely, add the reference label and wash my hands again. I then put the vial into the plastic biohazard bag and worked out how to peel off the sticky label, seal securely and add another of the reference labels. Then I had to make up the cardboard posting box and close it using the security seal. This box was put in the fridge to await collection.
After all that I went online to complete a questionnaire. This was very involved and asked quite diverse questions including whether I had experienced any of a range of symptoms since November 2019. I was actually quite glad to have the opportunity of recording my symptoms from the middle of March when I am fairly sure I had Covid-19. It also asked how many people I had been in contact with in the last week both virtually and in person, with or without social distancing. I needed to try to identify them by age band.
This whole process had taken over an hour. I felt a bit of discomfort at the back of my throat and I was more than ready to return to bed with a cup of tea.”
To complete the process, this is the email she received containing the results of the test:
NHS COVID-19 Notification:
Your Covid-19 test has come back NEGATIVE. You don’t have the virus at this time.
You can stop self-isolating. Return to work if you haven’t had a fever for 48 hours and feel well. Contact your employer before returning to work.
If someone in your household tested positive and you had no symptoms on day of testing, you must self-isolate for 14 days from the onset of the first person’s symptoms, or 7 days if you did have symptoms on day of testing.
Care home residents with persistent symptoms need an assessment by their healthcare provider, as a they may require a repeat test. Please follow specific advice for care homes.
For further advice go to https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. If you have symptoms and your condition gets worse, go to NHS 111 online, call 111, or dial 999 in an emergency.
Further reading and support
We have a wealth of articles on coronavirus which can be found at firstaidforlife.org.uk and onlinefirstaid.com. If you want to ask any questions and share stories, don’t hesitate in joining our Stay Safe Facebook community group.
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It is strongly advised that you attend a fully regulated Practical or Online First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. Please visit?https://firstaidforlife.org.uk?or call 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses.
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First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.