Rapid Antigen vs. PCR COVID Tests: Which Should You Get?

Whether you’re getting ready to hop on a plane or feeling a bit under the weather, you’ve decided it’s time to take a COVID-19 test. But it can be hard to know which test to take, when you’ll get your results, and whether you can be sure your results are accurate. In this blog post, we’ll explain the differences between the two types of COVID-19 diagnostic tests: PCR and rapid antigen tests – and where you can access tests when you need them.



What kind of COVID-19 tests are available?
There are two types of diagnostic tests for COVID-19: Molecular (PCR) and antigen (rapid). Both require a nasal swab for a sample, but how they go about testing for the virus are different.

You may have also heard of an antibody test, which is NOT used for diagnostic purposes but can tell you whether you’ve been exposed to the virus before. Piedmont Urgent Care does offer the antibody test with results in 1-3 business days. The antibody test cannot tell you whether you have a current COVID-19 infection.

What is a PCR Test?
The PCR test is a type of molecular test, which means it tests for genetic material of the virus. Piedmont Urgent Care offers PCR test results in 2 hours at all of our locations. Because of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique it uses, the PCR is the most accurate and reliable test for diagnosing COVID-19, even if you’re asymptomatic.

What is a Rapid Antigen Test?
The rapid test, also called the rapid antigen test, is true to its name: Within 15 minutes, you can know whether you’ve been infected with COVID-19. Instead of genetic material, the rapid test is looking for proteins specific to the virus. Because of this the rapid antigen test tends to be less sensitive than PCR. In some cases, a PCR test to confirm the results of a rapid antigen test is needed.

Bottom line: Both rapid antigen and PCR tests can tell you if you’ve contracted COVID-19, but the PCR is all-around considered the “gold standard” for COVID-19 testing, and is accepted by airlines for travel, as well as venues for various events. And with results in 2 hours, you can feel confident about your test results. Piedmont Urgent Care wants to make your COVID-19 testing experience safe and simple! We offer easy online scheduling, though no advance appointment is required. See what insurance plans we accept, and find a testing location near you!

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