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I Bought a Covid-19 Antibody Test Online: Here’s What Happened

Anyone been wondering what kind of person would be tempted to buy a Covid-19 antibody test online?

<Sheepishly raises hand>

In my defence, it wasn’t actually me who bought the test: it was Terry. Because, in the same way that he used to impulse-buy whatever random crap was sitting next to the checkout at ALDI, he apparently now just impulse-buys kits designed to allow him to stab his wife’s finger with a very sharp implement. Who said romance was dead?

I may not have gone out of my way to buy a Covid-19 antibody test myself, however, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t pleased when Terry bought one for me, because, like most people I know, I’ve spent the last few weeks mentally going through all of the various illnesses I’ve had this year, and wondering if one of them could have been IT.

Admit it, you’ve done it too, haven’t you? You’ve read the reports about how many of the people who catch Covid-19 are either asymptomatic, or have very mild symptoms which could easily be mistaken for the common cold, say, and you’ve wondered if you could be one of them.

Well, me too: and, in my case, there were plenty of potential Covid-cases for me to choose from too, because, from the moment Max started nursery, last December, right up until the UK lockdown started, both he and I seemed to catch every bug going, basically. (Terry, on the other hand, managed to avoid most of them, which is why, after he’d impulse-purchased the antibody test, he decided I should be the one to use it. We figured that, of the two of us, I was the mostly likely to have had the virus: and if I hadn’t had it, it would be very unlikely that Terry had, either.)

Could I have had Covid-19 already, without even realising?

There was that never-ending cough, for instance: the one that got so bad that, at one point, I literally coughed until I threw up. There was the conjunctivitis that Max passed on to me, and which we now know can be linked to Coronavirus.  There was the time we had to take Max to the doctor, who diagnosed him with an “unspecified viral infection”. A week later, I was in bed with a sore throat, a constantly spiking temperature, and aching muscles. The doctor said it was most likely a bad case of strep: and, fair enough, my throat has never been so sore in my life. Could it have been Covid-19, though? Could any of those bugs I just couldn’t seem to stop getting have been it?

Honestly? Probably not. I knew I was clutching at straws here. I knew it was unlikely I’d ever had Covid-19, and, even more importantly, I knew that, even if I had had, it wouldn’t actually change anything. We still don’t know for sure, after all, that having the virus confers immunity: and, even if it does, we don’t know how long that immunity might last. I did, however, know that finding out I’d already had it wouldn’t be some kind of Get Out of Jail Free Card: it wouldn’t get me out of lockdown, and it wouldn’t let me see my parents again – so I guess the question has to be asked:

Why bother?

Why I bought  a Covid-19 Test Kit Online

The answer to that is pretty simple, really: curiosity. I knew that finding out I’d already had the virus wouldn’t change my day-to-day life, but I still wanted to know: if only to help stop my anxiety spiking every time I coughed, or felt a tiny bit under the weather. As a health anxiety sufferer, 2020 has been terrifying for me so far: and while the months since lockdown started have been easier in that respect than the months before it (January and February were absolutely horrific: I knew the virus was out there, but no one seemed to be doing anything about it, or taking it even remotely seriously, so my anxiety became almost unbearable…), if I were to find out that I’d already had Covid-19 – and, crucially – hadn’t died from it, it would at least put an end to the never-ending ‘Is It Covid-19, Or Is It Just Hayfever?’ dance I’ve been doing for the past month or so.

So, Terry ordered the test (Which he got here: this is an online pharmacy he’s used before, but I have no connection to them, and, as I’m not a doctor or a scientist, I obviously can’t vouch for the accuracy of this test, so proceed at your own risk…), and it arrived a few days later. Here’s what it looked like:

Covid-19 antibody test kit, available to buy onlineThe Abbott Antibody Test for Covid-19

I believe there are a few different Covid-19 antibody tests on the market now, some of which claim to give you an instant result. This one, however, is the Abbott Antibody test for Covid-19, which has been approved for use by Public Health England, and claims to have an incredibly high level of accuracy.* It’s a lab-based blood test, so you have to prick your finger, collect the blood in one of the vials provided, and then mail it back to the lab, where it will be checked to see whether it contains the Covid-19 antibody.

I’m not scared of needles, but I AM too much of a wuss to be able to stick one in my own finger, so I had to look away while Terry did this for me, and then I had to stand up and hover over the vial to keep the blood flowing, while Terry kind of milked my little finger, for want of a better word. And, I guess if romance wasn’t dead before, it definitely was after that, really.

A couple of handy – boom boom! – hints for you here:

01. Wash your hands in water as hot as you can stand it first, to get the blood circulating before you stab yourself. (And also to make sure they’re clean, obviously, although, I’m pretty sure no one needs me to remind them of the importance of hand-washing at this point, right?)

02. Use the swab provided to clean the finger you’re planning to swab, and I’d also recommend swabbing a Fallback Finger, just in case the first one fails you. I’d selected my left pinky to take one for the team here, but I also swabbed my right pinky too, so I could keep it on standby. #BEPREPARED

I’m not going to claim the finger-stabbing part of this is totally painless, obviously: I am, however, going to assume you all know what it’s like to prick your finger, and, unsurprisingly, it was exactly like that, albeit followed by a couple of minutes of the aforementioned milking. Yikes.

Fortunately for me, we managed to fill the vial provided without any issues, and with just one finger: my brother-in-law, however, who purchased the same test, had to try four different fingers to collect enough blood, so that’s something to be prepared for, too.

And that’s pretty much it, really. Once the blood has been collected, you simply stick the label provided onto the tube, then put it, along with your completed paperwork (It’s just your name, sex, and date of birth) into the pre-paid envelope provided, to mail it back to the lab.

And then you wait.

Abbott Antibody test for Covid-19

The website Terry ordered the test from said they aimed to have the results for you within 24 hours, but I was expecting it to take a bit longer than that, as this test has just been approved, and I’d imagine the demand for it will probably be pretty high. As it turned out, though, I mailed the test back at around 2pm one day (And, yes, I defied the shielding guidelines to drive to the nearest post box myself: it was the first time I’d left the house in 9 weeks and it was pretty damn exciting, not gonna lie…) and, at about 9pm the next evening, Terry’s phone pinged with the results, which are sent by text and email.

So, HAVE I had Covid-19, then?

Vovid-19 antibody test results

That would be a NO.

Damn.

Honestly, though, this might not have been the result I was hoping for, but it WAS the one I was expecting, so I wasn’t particularly disappointed. On the plus side, at least I know that all of my frenzied handwashing back at the start of the year was not in vain. I have not had coronavirus, and, on balance, I think NOT having coronavirus is probably better than having it, so I can’t complain. While nothing has changed as a result of taking the Abbott antibody test, though, I’m still glad I did it, if only because it’s satisfied my curiosity. If I hadn’t taken the test, I’d always have wondered about it, and at least now I don’t have to give it any more headspace, and can get back to wondering if each bout of hayfever is, in fact, about to kill me.

Anyone else taken a coronavirus antibody test? How did you get on?

[*Update: Since I wrote this post, Abbott have released a statement saying that their test was not developed with home use in mind, and that the pinprick test may not be as accurate as a blood draw. I suspect my result probably is accurate nevertheless, but this is obviously something to be aware of, and I think it stands to reason that having blood taken from the vein will give you a better chance of accuracy. So, as always, use your own judgement, and buyer beware!]

 

Amber

COMMENTS
  • Lila

    REPLY

    I’ve thought about, I get silent illnesses so who knows what I’ve had 🤔😂 Will wait to see how these tests get done next month though. I am more curious what my kids had when they had illnesses.

    P. S Pinkies are the best for blood prick tests, the sides, I can’t use any other fingers 😬😳😘

    May 20, 2020
  • Jacqueline

    REPLY

    I’m very tempted, but I’m not keen on spending a lot of money. I do think that a lot more people have had the virus than the govt. is letting on though. Here’s hoping there’s a breakthrough soon.

    May 20, 2020
  • Myra

    REPLY

    Other than warming up your hands another tip is to make sure you are hydrated, so drink water, then it flows better. Gla you got the result you wanted. Stay safe.

    May 20, 2020
  • Anna @ Make Life Simpler

    REPLY

    Yup. Well, husband did! On 2 March I was in London for work, sat next to someone arrived from Pisa that morning, and the speaker at my event that evening flew in from China. A few days later I had a dry cough with loss of taste and smell (didn’t know til recently that was a symptom) and a headache. Couple of days later, husband came down with cold like symptoms, as did toddler. I was pretty certain that was it. And…antibody test which husband did (we were not paying for two!) was positive. So we have had it. Was also amazed at less than 24h results. Quite impressed basically. X

    May 20, 2020
      • Lea Stewart

        REPLY

        Unfortunately there are NO reliable anti body tests in this country. One maybe in Switzerland and the ethics of selling them to the public are another whole issue. The NHS and staff at work would be getting the tests and are waiting on them. 🥰

        May 21, 2020
  • Miss Kitty

    REPLY

    I don’t think I will bother paying the money for one. Here in NZ community transmission is just about nil, so unless you have been in direct contact with someone who has had covid-19, it is unlikely that you would have had it. One advantage to all this is I normally catch bronchitis at least twice over a winter. I’m hoping that with all the new cleanliness paranoia, people with normal colds will think twice about heading out and stay home, thereby reducing the chances of passing it on to the rest of us.

    I hear you on the excitement of going out for the first time. During our lockdown I stayed at home for 2 weeks before I really needed some more fresh groceries. I couldn’t believe how excited I got about just going to the shops, which used to be a completely normal activity I didn’t think twice about doing. I can’t even imagine how good it must have felt to leave the house after 12 weeks at home, even if it was just to the post box!

    May 20, 2020
  • Erik

    REPLY

    I’d be disappointed too, but it’s comforting to (probably) know you never asymptotically gave it to anyone else and continue an infection chain that led to a serious illness.

    May 20, 2020
  • Flora

    REPLY

    These tests aren’t intended for home use, or use with finger prick sample – the manufacturer says as much. Sorry you got mis-sold to. Probably not worth relying on whatever result it told you, either way.

    May 21, 2020
  • Erik

    REPLY

    They are haphazardly becoming available in the US with over 200 tests being marketed, all with varying degrees of accuracy. I plan to have one this week from a place that draws a vial full of blood (not the pinprick type) and sends it to a lab. It seems that has a better chance at having a higher rate of accuracy, but I’m still not sure.

    May 21, 2020
  • EffEmm

    REPLY

    Pah, your husband pricked your finger? I’ll see you and raise you. My husband is a doctor, and on occasion he has taken a full set of bloods from me (in our bedroom! Swoon!) to save me queueing at the phlebotomy bit of the hospital. He has a light touch (he prides himself on being able to ‘bleed’ the weakest of elderly veins) and it was the best blood test I’ve ever had! Definitely no milking 😉

    One of our doctor friends has had it, as has his wife (children were fine). And in all honesty, several of us wanted to pile in for a ‘measles party’. I’m only half-joking when I ask my husband to bring back his PPE (i.e. his bin liner apron…) so that I can lick it, and get COVID out of the way. So I completely get why Terry wanted to do these tests, especially given the unending lockdown that you’re all facing. (Members of my family are also shielding – MIL has CPOD and has to use oxygen 24/7. She’s similarly at her wits’ end.)

    May 21, 2020
  • Christiane

    REPLY

    On one hand I would like to take one because though I have not been ill, I could have had but been asymptomatic, and I think it would sort of help my anxiety a little knowing I already had had it and no longer have to worry about catching it. But at the same time if I have had it, I would then worry about all the people I might have infected. Then of course the test is not reliable and I don’t think it is possible to get an anti-body test at the doctor in my country unless you are fairly certain you might have had Corona. So I don’t think I am going to get one.

    I did laugh reading that Terry milked your finger! I imagine he did it just as when you milk a cow and that is an image that’s going to amuse me for a while, so thank you!

    May 21, 2020
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