This Is the Only Reason You Shouldn't Get an Antibody Test
Curious about antibody testing? Here's when doctors say you should and shouldn't get tested.
As the novel coronavirus has continued to sweep the U.S., many people have been eagerly awaiting the availability of antibody testing. If you're not familiar, an antibody test measures whether or not your immune system has created antibodies to fight the coronavirus. So, it's a way to recognize those who've been exposed to the coronavirus but recovered or were asymptotic. An antibody test is the easiest way to squash the speculation and know for sure whether you have developed antibodies for the coronavirus. Now, antibody testing is available nationwide through companies like LabCorp, and many doctors say that anyone who has the ability to get tested should do so. But there is one occasion in which you should not get an antibody test: if you think you have the coronavirus currently.
"If you are sick or experiencing symptoms, you should not get an antibody test," says Stephanie N. McClellan, MD, CMO of Tia Women's Health Clinic. If you get the antibody test while you are sick, it can not only skew the results, but it can also put the tester at risk of infection.
McClellan explains that "in the early days of infection, when the body's immune response is still building, antibodies may not be detectable." If you do have COVID-19 symptoms, "you should get a diagnostic nasal swab test. This test looks for the presence or absence of the specific COVID-19 RNA." Then, you should wait at least 14 days after your symptoms subside before going to get an antibody test.
Ultimately, "it would be best for every American to take responsibility and get one," says Raphael Kellman, MD, founder of Kellman Wellness Center. He notes that antibody testing can "help [us] better understand how prevalent the disease is. Testing will help us better determine the mortality rate and give a better understanding of the severity of the disease."
In addition to helping experts learn more about the coronavirus and the country's current state, antibody tests could potentially help reopen states sooner, according to Kellman. "If you have antibodies in your system, in all likelihood, while not 100 percent, you're less likely to develop the infection or expose someone else to the infection," he says.
Although antibodies have not yet been proven to equal immunity, the more people we know have antibodies, the more "it will help people get back into the world safely without blindly infecting others," Kellman says. And for more facts about immunity and COVID-19 you need to know, check out This One Common Ailment Could Boost Your Coronavirus Immunity.