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LATERAL flow tests are key when it comes to stopping the spread of Covid and most people now have experience taking the tests.

The little tests can tell you whether or not you have Covid within minutesbut there are some things you need to know when it comes to using the swabs.

Lateral flow tests are a key element of keeping everyone safe from Covid-19 infections

Lateral flow tests are a key element of keeping everyone safe from Covid-19 infectionsCrédit: AFP

False positives have always been a possibility when it comes to lateral flow tests so it’s important that you know what you’re doing.

This will help you avoid having to isolate unnecessarily and will also help you stop spreading the bug to the most vulnerable in society.

Omicron is a milder variant than the ones that came before it and most people will suffer cold-like symptoms.

But it’s not milder for everyone and some people are still at risk of severe infection.

This is why it’s important to get vaccinated and continue to take tests to make sure we keep everyone safe and avoid further lockdowns.

Here are the ten things you need to keep in mind when taking tests so that you avoid a false positive.

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1. Snotty swab

Lots of people who are testing positive with Omicron are experiencing cold-like symptoms and for most people, this will include having a snotty or runny nose.

It might be easy to just grab a tissue, blow your nose and think nothing more of it, but it’s really important, if you think you could have Omicron or are unsure about your symptoms, that you get a test and isolate to avoid spreading the illness to others.

But for many people, a snotty nose might also just be down to the common cold or hayfever.

With that in mind it’s important that you blow your nose before taking the testas is stated on the instructions leaflet.

If you simply just swab the snot then it could lead to an incorrect result.

2. Incorrect storage

You might think nothing of chucking your tests in a draw when they arrive, but you should look at how they are stored before tidying them away.

Experts at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee expliqué: “Test kits need to be stored in conditions that will preserve the integrity of the swab.

Therefore test kits should be stored in a designated area away from direct sunlight, between 2-30°C as stated in the service specification.”

3. Out of date tests

If you’re taking tests on a regular basis then it’s unlikely that they will be out of date.

But they do have a ‘best before’ Date, so it’s important to check this before you take the test as this could lead to a false positive.

The date will be displayed on the front of the box the test is posted in and it will also be on the wrapper of each individual test.

4. Test contamination

If you’re in a rush then it’s easy to contaminate the test so make sure you give yourself enough time to take it properly.

The instruction manual advises that you wash your hands beforehand and it’s important you do this as if you accidentally touch the swab with dirty hands then it could become contaminated.

Are lateral flow tests reliable?

When it comes to detecting the bug in adults, previous studies have shown that the tests are over 80 per cent effective at detecting any levels of the virus.

The paper, Publié dans Clinical Epidemiology found that the test detected 90 per cent of infections when people were most infectious.

The UK Health Security Agency also previously found that lateral flow tests are as effective at detecting Omicron than other variants before it.

If you test positive then you must isolate in order to stop the spread of the bug, but if you haven’t got symptoms you might be worried about getting a false positive.

5. Opening it too early

When you want to take a test it’s important you do it straight away after opening the kit.

Leaving the swab out could give you a false result as it may become contaminated.

6. Swabbing at the wrong angle

If you haven’t taken that many tests then you might find it hard to get the angle right.

Rather than putting it straight up your nose you should slightly tilt your head back which will help.

Remember the aim is to swab your nasal passage not your nostril.

Swabbing in the wrong place can result in an incorrect result.

7. Eating before the test

Eating or drinking before a test can contaminate the swabgiving you a false positive.

It’s the same reason why people using fruits or beverages on the test kits have also seen positive swabs.

When taking a test you need to wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinkingas to not disrupt the sensitive levels of the test.

8. Not enough droplets

In order to get an accurate result you should put the recommended amount of droplets onto the testing kit.

Depending on the kit this could be two or three droplets so it’s always important to read the instructions.

9. Not following the time guidelines

It’s imperative that you read the instructions with each set of tests you get as they vary with manufacturers.

For most tests, you will need to wait 30 minutes until you check the result.

Make sure you don’t leave it for longer than this as it could be inaccurate.

10. Blood on the swab

If you’ve been a little bit too aggressive with the swab then you might have drawn blood.

You should not continue with the test in this case as blood will not be read correctly by the test.