THESE are the seven key things you need to know about lateral flow tests.
Lateral flow immunochromatographic assays or rapid tests, sometimes called LFTs, can be used to get a Covid test result within minutes.
You can take regular LFTs to keep tabs on your health during the pandemic.
They are useful as cases continue to rise due to the mutant Omicron variant.
However, a string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun’s Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits’ arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
It’s advised to use them regularly if you can’t work from home, or if you’re attending school or university in person.
Dr Nathan, an A&E doctor in London, who has been producing helpful posts on his Instagram page, has shared the key things you need to know about LFTs.
What are lateral flow tests and how do they work?
Rapid testing (lateral flow testing) means results are available “on the spot” within just half an hour.
They work in a similar way to the most commonly known lateral flow rapid test strip – pregnancy tests.
A positive result is seen as a dark band or a fluorescent glow on the test strip, with a result in about 30 minutes.
A Covid lateral flow test uses a swab from a patient’s nose or throat to quickly determine if they are infected with the virus.
Dr Nathan advises: “Read the enclosed instructions all the way through before you start the test.
“Don’t forget to avoid eating or drinking for at least 30 minutes before, to blow your nose and to wash your hands!”
Where can you get lateral flow tests from?
Check if you can get LFTs from your workplace, school or uni – they’re sometimes stocked in places where people coming in are asked to take the tests regularly.
You can also get them from local pharmacists or collection points, you can find out where they are here.
And you can also order them via the NHS website – however, there is currently a shortage of LFTs.
How much do the tests cost?
Lateral flow tests are free and you should not pay for them.
They usually come in packs of seven, one for every day of the week.
How do you read a lateral flow test result?
Dr Nathan warns one of the most common mistakes people make when taking LFTs is misreading the result.
He said: “Any positive line within 30 minutes, even if it is so faint that it is barely visible, equals a positive result.
“However, if a faint line appears after 30 minutes, this can be ignored.”
If two red lines appear that means a positive result.
If there is just one red line, at the top, then that is a negative result.
Is the government going to scrap free lateral flow tests?
The education secretary Nadhim Zahawi said there are no plans to end free lateral flow tests – despite several reports claiming they would be scrapped.
He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips that he was “puzzled” by the reports and confirmed the tests will continue to be free.
Mr Zahawi added: “I saw that story this morning, which I was slightly puzzled by because I don’t recognise it at all. This is absolutely not where we are at.
“For January alone, 425 million lateral flow tests coming in and they will continue to be available for free.
“I don’t really recognise where that story is coming from.”
How do you dispose of a lateral flow test?
Regardless of the result, LFTs should be disposed of in the general waste bin.
You can dispose of the test in the bin at your home or work.
Are lateral flow tests safe?
LFTs are totally safe, and pose no risk to your health.
Officials have expressed concerns about misinformation regarding the tests spread via Facebook, Whatsapp and other social media platforms.
The Department for Health and Social care told Reuters: “Lateral flow tests have been rigorously tested and are safe to use on a regular basis. Any suggestion otherwise is inaccurate and harmful misinformation.
“Ethylene oxide is only used in the sterilisation of swabs and it is one of the most commonly used sterilisation tools in the healthcare industry, principally applied by manufacturers to keep medical devices safe.”