Health Advice



COVID-19 tests: Different types and when to use them

Deb Balzer, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

There are various types of COVID-19 tests that people may choose from to find out if they are infected with the virus.

Dr. Matthew Binnicker and the team at Mayo Clinic Laboratories help break down the different types of COVID-19 tests and when to use them.

Test at the health care provider's office or testing site:


What is it?

This test looks for the virus' RNA in a patient's sample. A sample is collected by inserting a nasopharyngeal swab into a person's nostril and taking cells from the back of the nose. Some lab tests allow for patients to spit into a tube to get a saliva sample.


When should you take this test?

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have been exposed or if you are experiencing symptoms.

When can you expect results and how accurate will they be?

Depending on the lab your provider uses, you can expect to receive your results within 24-72 hours. The PCR test is the gold standard when it comes to COVID-19 testing.


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