What Should I Do if My Covid-19 Test Is Inconclusive

What Should I Do if My Covid-19 Test Is Inconclusive

If you have just gotten an inconclusive Covid-19 test, you may be wondering what it means and the next step you should take. Also, you may want to know – what does an inconclusive Covid test look like?

There are three possible results when one gets tested for Covid-19. A positive Covid-19 test result means that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was detected in your sample. A negative test result means that the virus isn’t present in your sample, while an inconclusive Covid test result means that the test couldn’t be interpreted as either positive or negative. So, what are the reasons for an inconclusive Covid test, and how do you proceed after getting such a result?

Reasons Your Covid Test Is Inconclusive

The two commonly used diagnostic tests for Covid-19 are the PCR and the rapid antigen test, also referred to as the lateral flow test (LFT).

A PCR test is a molecular test that determines the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus by detecting the genetic material of the virus. On the other hand, a rapid antigen test determines if your sample has viral proteins that are unique to the coronavirus. 

Molecular tests are more accurate, and they also have fewer false positive results compared to antigen tests. However, this does not mean that one cannot get an inconclusive PCR test. Similarly, lateral flow tests (LFTS) will sometimes give void results.

Some of the reasons for inconclusive Covid test results from both of these tests include:

  • Error – Most Covid-19 tests use nasal swabs to collect mucus specimens. Others use saliva samples from the throat or mouth. If the nasal or throat sample wasn’t collected properly, it could lead to an inconclusive result. Similarly, if the testing instructions weren’t followed correctly, the result can come back as inconclusive. This is particularly true for lateral flow tests that are done from home. However, even a medical professional can make a mistake when taking a PCR nasal swab which can lead to a void result.
  • Inadequate sample – If the nasal or throat sample collected wasn’t enough to test, the result could come back as inconclusive. Also, a throat or saliva specimen may be less effective than a nasopharyngeal swab.
  • Delayed or early testing – If the testing is done when the virus is past the upper airways, the result may be inconclusive. Similarly, tests done at the very early stages of the infection can yield inconclusive results
  • Poor storage – Poor storage of the specimen can affect the integrity of the sample.

What You Should Do After an Inconclusive Result?

An inconclusive Covid-19 test result doesn’t mean that you don’t have an active infection. For instance, if you got an inconclusive result because you conducted the test too early, you might still be contagious. 

If you receive an inconclusive test, the first thing you should do is self-isolate more so if you have Covid-19 symptoms or you have been in contact with an infected person. Ensure you continue to follow the Covid-19 quarantine guidelines until you do another test. Next, you need to take a new Covid-19 test. If the inconclusive Covid test result was from a PCR test, you might need to wait for at least one day before you take another test. If you got a void test result after taking a lateral flow test, the NHS recommends that you take another test as soon as possible.

Signs You Should See a Doctor

If you have recently come into contact with someone infected with Covid-19, it’s advisable that you get tested. You can order an at-home LFT from an online private test provider such as HandStations.co.uk.

According to the NHS guidelines, anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 should avoid contact with others for at least five days. Also, they should avoid meeting people who are at a higher risk from Covid-19 for at least ten days. In case your symptoms get worse even after isolating, you should seek medical advice. Some of the warning Covid-19 symptoms that may warrant a visit to the doctor include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Muscle aches
  • Pressure or pain in the chest
  • Pale or blue lips, skin, or face

Steps to Take if You Test Negative but Have Symptoms

If you test negative for Covid, but you have symptoms such as fever, chills, the new loss of smell or taste, a continuous cough, fatigue, headache, congestion or a runny nose, you should:

  1. 1. Take a PCR test to confirm your results if you had taken an at-home lateral flow test.
  2. 2. Isolate at home and avoid contact with others.
  3. 3. Avoid contact with people who are at a higher risk from Covid-19 or those who have a compromised immune system, even if they’re vaccinated.
  4. 4. If you need to leave your home during or after the isolation period, ensure you wear a mask and avoid crowded places.
  5. 5. More importantly, get vaccinated if you haven’t received the Covid-19 vaccine yet.


In closing, getting an inconclusive Covid-19 test result shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. A Covid test result can come back as inconclusive due to a testing error, inadequate sample, or if the test was done too early or too late. If your test result comes back as inconclusive, continue isolating at home as you wait to do another test. And if you’re worried about your health, you can always contact your healthcare provider.

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