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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Wayland

What COVID Test do I Need to Travel & Does it Hurt?

If you're confused as to what is a PCR test? An Antigen test? An Antibody test? and what do I need to travel? You're not alone.

I am here to dispell the meanings and what you need in your situation.

I have been tested - TWICE - so I will explain my two experiences and how vastly different they were

Note: This is NOT medical advice.

The most common test is the PCR test. The PCR test looks for pieces of the COVID virus, often in the nose, to determine if you have an active infection.

In most cases, the swab is taken by a healthcare provider and tested. Sometimes the test can be run while you wait, and sometimes the swab will be sent to a lab for testing.

A positive PCR test means that the person being tested has an active COVID infection.

A negative PCR test means you didn't have COVID at the time of testing and does not help determine if you had an infection in the past.

Antigen Tests look for pieces of proteins that make up the COVID virus and are used to determine if a person has an active infection.

Like the PCR test, in most cases, a nasal swab is taken by a healthcare provider and tested.

A negative antigen test means that the viral proteins were not detected. However, a negative test does not rule out COVID infection. If there is still concern, then you should be tested again with a PCR test.

Antigen tests are less sensitive than PCR tests, meaning there may be false negative results. Negative tests should be treated as presumptive.

Serology or Antibody tests are what they sound like. Serology looks for antibodies in the blood to determine if there was a past infection.

In most cases, a blood sample is taken and sent to a lab for testing.

A positive antibody test means that the person being tested was infected with COVID in the past and that their immune system developed antibodies to try to fight it off.

It may be negative if it is used too close to the beginning of an infection, which is why Serology testing should not be used to detect active COVID infection.

FDA has approved Saliva testing. Saliva testing is just as if not more effective than PCR testing and can be detected in as much as 30 minutes

Vendors are Selling saliva testing online, however be LEERY of the vendor, as there are false tests being sold online.

In Universities including the UofI here in my hometown, I imagine this is just part of their orientation; you get your housing information, your dining card, your ID card, and you also submit your saliva sample.

What it’s LIKE? Does it hurt?

I have taken two tests; one in South Carolina that took one week for the result and one in Illinois that took less than 48 hours for the result. Both tests were FREE of charge. Both tests were PCR nasal swab tests, however they were very different.

In South Carolina the healthcare worker "walked me through it." She told me to stick the swab halfway up my nose (have you seen how long those swabs are?!!) When it got uncomfortable, I stopped and she said "that's far enough."

She had me twirl the dame swab for 15 seconds in each nostril.


There is a substance on the end of the swab that the smell reminded me of Compound W wart remover. She warned me that it may make me sneeze, my eyes water and nose run ;it did.

In Illinois, the healthcare worker gave me the option of doing the test or me. I let her. She simply swabbed (with the same single swab) the inside of my nostrils lightly for 15 seconds. This time I didn't sneeze or have watery eyes and runny nose. However, I also didn't have cold symptoms this time, so that explains that.

I find that many people that have returned to work take these tests regularly. I would NOT fear the COVID test if I were you.

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