Why Should Lateral Flow Tests Not Be Used if You Have Symptoms?

Why Should Lateral Flow Tests Not Be Used if You Have Symptoms?

Staying safe and ensuring the people around you are in optimal health is crucial in fighting the deadly Covid-19 virus. While the PCR test remains the gold standard for detecting the infection, lateral flow tests, also known as rapid antigen tests, have been widely used to identify Covid-19 patients.

However, one must understand that performing a lateral flow test when symptomatic has drawbacks. This article will discuss why lateral flow tests for symptomatic patients may not be the best option and the potential risks associated with relying on these tests alone.

A Lateral Flow Test Vs. a PCR Test

Both PCR and lateral flow tests can detect COVID-19, although they work differently and have varying degrees of accuracy. A lateral flow test is a rapid antigen test that can provide results in as little as 15 minutes.

However, a PCR test (polymerase chain reaction) is a more sensitive test that can detect the virus’ genetic makeup. They typically require a nasal or throat swab, which is then sent to a lab for analysis. Compared to lateral flow tests, PCR results take longer, typically within 24-48 hours.

When It’s Better to Do a Lateral Flow Test?

You don’t always have to wait a day or two for your result just because you did a PCR test. There are instances when a lateral flow test may be a more appropriate option. 

For example, a lateral flow test may be a good choice if you are asymptomatic and need a quick test result to return to work, school, or a public place. 

Additionally, if you are in an area with a high prevalence of COVID-19, a lateral flow test may be more appropriate for population screening.

Nevertheless, you must note that a negative result from a lateral flow test does not guarantee that a person is not infected and should not be the sole basis for making decisions about quarantine or isolation. 

When to Do a PCR Test?

Now you know when a lateral flow test may be more appropriate, but what about when you should do a PCR test?

Doctors recommend a PCR test when you show signs of COVID-19. This is because you are more likely to have a high viral load, and a lateral flow test may not detect the virus. 

Additionally, PCR tests are recommended for people in close contact with infectious people. Even if you do not have symptoms, you should still get a PCR test if you have been exposed to the virus. 

Why Should Lateral Flow Tests Not Be Used If You Have Symptoms?

  1. 1. LFTs have lower sensitivity for people with symptoms.
  2. 2. They may give false negative results. 
  3. 3. Healthcare givers do not recommend lateral flow with symptoms of the virus.
  4. 4. They are less accurate than PCR tests.
  5. 5. It can’t detect low viral loads.
  6. 6. Not recommended for people in close contact with positive cases.
  7. 7. They are not suitable for people planning on traveling. 


We hope this article has helped you distinguish instances when you need a PCR or lateral flow test. The latter is simple and easy but has drawbacks and shouldn’t be done if you have COVID-19 symptoms. Positive LFT results with symptoms still need confirmation with a PCR test. Remember, even if a test yields a negative result, it’s crucial to follow public health recommendations and monitor symptoms. 

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts

Blog Archives

Christmas Banner
    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop