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Compare COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in Ireland

Rapid antigen tests are the fastest way to get tested against COVID. Here's what you need to know.

Feeling confused by all the COVID testing rules? Use our guide to help you understand if you’re eligible for a free rapid antigen COVID test and when you’ll need to pay for one.

There are lots of rapid antigen tests on the market, so it’s important to compare your options. This guide can help.

Compare rapid antigen tests

If you’re planning to travel out of Ireland, you will need to purchase a RT-PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test from a private clinic. Check our guide to find out which tests and certificates you’ll need for international travel.

However, if you want to find out whether you have the virus before paying for a PCR test, a rapid antigen test is a viable solution.

Rapid antigen tests, also known as lateral flow tests, are cheaper and faster than a PCR test. However, they are also less accurate. Let’s get you up to speed.

Rapid antigen tests vs PCR tests: What’s the difference?

A PCR test (also known as a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test), is a swab test used to diagnose people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. These are the most accurate tests for the virus and are sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Can I get a free rapid antigen test?

There are specific rules for booking and obtaining the free rapid antigen tests (home test kits) from HSE. You’re eligible for a free test if:

  • You are aged between 4 – 39 and have COVID symptoms. HSE advises that anyone in this age bracket should not book a PCR test.
  • You are a close contact of someone that has recently tested positive and you do not have COVID symptoms. You will usually be contacted by HSE to alert you that you are a close contact.

Can I get a free PCR test?

HSE allows you to book free PCR tests if:

  • You are aged 40 or older and have COVID symptoms.
  • You have infants aged 3 months to 3 years old who have COVID symptoms
  • You are a healthcare worker

What is a rapid antigen test?

A rapid antigen test works a little differently from PCR tests, which are the type you can get at private or government-run testing clinics. Antigen tests look for proteins in the virus to detect its presence, while a PCR test looks for the RNA material that tells the virus to produce these proteins.

A rapid antigen test is a lot easier, quicker, and cheaper to do on a practical level. You can even do it yourself at home as it doesn’t necessarily require a medical professional (the instructions are in the box.)

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Pictured: Rapid antigen testing kit. Image: Supplied

How do rapid antigen tests work?

Depending on the provider, you may be required to get an in-house test or do it from home.

If you’re going into a clinic, you’ll either be supervised while taking your own swab or have a lab technician take it for you. You can take the test from the tonsils, nostrils or both. The results can be as quick as 15 minutes.

If it’s an at-home antigen test, you’ll also take the swab from the tonsils, nostrils or both, whichever the instructions specify.

How much do rapid antigen tests cost?

Pricing varies. On average, prices hover around €7 for one test but you should be able to find them cheaper. Expect to pay €5 for a single rapid antigen tests from the Beauty Basket. Online sellers usually offer packs of tests such as 5 tests for around €20 or a pack of 20 for €65 or more.

Boots offers rapid antigen tests for anyone aged 7+ that does not have COVID symptoms and is not a close contact of someone that has recently tested positive. This service costs €35 and you’ll usually get your results on the same day you take the test.

Oral vs Nasal rapid antigen tests

There are currently 2 types of rapid antigen tests available in Australia: oral and nasal testing.

Nasal tests involve inserting a nasal swab into your nose. You then twirl it around for a few seconds allowing the soft bristles to collect a sample of the cells and fluids present to be analysed. The nasal swab needs to be inserted quite far to collect a good specimen for an accurate test result. Some people find these tests extremely uncomfortable. But it’s all over in a few seconds.

Both tests detect the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19. Both tests are deemed to be equally effective at detecting the virus.

However, the rapid antigen test you carry out will depend on the test kit. Read the instructions carefully.

Where can I get an antigen test?

There are a number of providers selling rapid antigen home testing kits in Ireland. You can buy home test kits from pharmacies, online retailers or directly from the provider.

When buying online, make sure that the product conforms all European health, safety and environmental standards.

Keep an eye on the Trustpilot reviews for any unknown providers, and don’t be afraid to speak to customer services if you’re unsure about anything. Always check the refunds policy too.

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