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Corona self-tests: Typical mistakes and how to avoid them

They should provide additional security - for example, before visiting grandma. But despite the clearly formulated instructions, there is plenty of room for errors in the self-tests. An expert explains

Anyone can test themselves for the corona virus at home with freely available self-tests. But even if the enclosed description leaves no questions unanswered, there are always uncertainties when using the rapid antigen tests from the supermarket, drugstore or pharmacy.

An ENT doctor explains typical application errors - and how to avoid them:

Warehousing: The box should not be too cold or too warm in the apartment. So neither in the freezer nor in the blazing sun - studies suggest that such storage could falsify the results of the test.

"They can be stored normally at room temperature," recommends ENT doctor Bernhard Junge-Hülsing from Starnberg. The temperatures at which the box with the test can be stored is usually stated on the packaging or at least in the instruction leaflet.

It is important that there is a small but subtle difference between storage temperature and application temperature. At the time of use, the tests should always be at room temperature - so if you have stored them in a cooler place, you should leave them on the work surface for a certain time and not use them immediately.

The implementation: Hygiene is essential in order not to falsify the test result. That is why the work surface should be clean and before you start, you should wash your hands thoroughly - among other things, because after stirring the swab tip in the buffer solution, you have to put a cap with a spout on the tube.

If you test several people, for example yourself and your children, you cannot hold all of the test tubes in your hand. Junge-Hülsings tip: clothespins prevent you from falling over. You clamp them to the bottom of the tubes. There they are more or less a support and ensure that the tubes stand upright and that you can work without any problems.

The smear: As a rule, a nasal swab is required for the self-test. In both holes. It is enough to stick the swab in one, one might think - a fallacy. "As a result, you may not get enough secretion on the swab," says Junge-Hülsing. The swab belongs in both holes.

According to the doctor, it is also not a good idea to blow your nose thoroughly beforehand. This may have the same effect as omitting a hole: too little secretion on the swab.

According to Junge-Hülsing, the color of the control line on the test cassette provides an indication that comparatively little secretion has landed on the swab.

"If its color is only very pale, that speaks for little secretion." Then the risk of a false negative result increases, according to the doctor. In other words, that the test turns out negative even though you are positive.

Otherwise, the following applies when handling the swab: Be careful and feel. During the self-tests, the swab does not have to be pushed into the transition from nose to throat. Two to four centimeters deep into the nostril, that's enough. And that flat towards the floor of the ear canal and not at an angle upwards - there is a risk of injury.

The result: According to the ENT specialist, this is where the greatest source of error lurks. Many consider a line at C to be a positive result. C does not stand for Corona, but for Control. "If there is no line at C, the test cannot be used." The T stands for test - this is the relevant place for the question of whether you are positive or negative.

Specifically, this means: If you can see lines at C and T, the test has turned out positive. If a dash can only be seen at C, the test is negative. If a line can only be seen at T, it is invalid - this also applies if no line appears at all.

A negative rapid test is not a carte blanche

And what do you do with the result? "The moment the test is positive, there is scythe," said Junge-Hülsing. What he means by that: From then on you should avoid contact and immediately seek a more detailed PCR test from a doctor or a test center in order to confirm the result of the self-test.

A negative self-test, on the other hand, is not a license. Not only because of possible application errors does it offer no guarantee that you will not be positive and contagious after all. Experts like the virologist Christian Drosten point out that the tests are often negative, especially at the beginning of the infection - although you may already have enough viruses in you to infect others.

So it is wise to continue to adhere to the hygiene rules even if the self-test result is negative.