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 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:
The 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.
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?
That would be a NO.
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!]