July 01, 2020

How to Test for the Flu

flu test

What’s a Flu Test?

A flu test is used to determine whether or not you have the flu. In addition to figuring out if you have the flu, flu tests can also be used to:

  • Figure out whether an outbreak of respiratory illness in a community, such as a school or nursing home, has been caused by the flu.
  • Identify the type of flu that’s causing infections. There are three main types of flu viruses: A, B, and C. Most seasonal flu outbreaks are caused by the A and/or B flu viruses.

You can get a flu test at any of the Baptist Health Urgent Care Clinics to:

  • Ensure proper diagnosis
  • Shorten your illness if you have the flu
  • Prevent further complications
  • Prevent spreading the flu

How Do They Test for Flu?

To test you for the flu, your healthcare provider will collect a sample of mucus or other secretions from your nose or throat. There a couple of different ways to get a sample for testing:

  • Swab test. Your healthcare provider will use a special swab to take a sample from your nose or throat.
  • Nasal aspirate. Your healthcare provider will inject a saline solution into your nose, then remove the sample with gentle suction.

How Long Does a Flu Test Take?

The most common flu test is called the rapid influenza antigen test, or rapid flu test, and it can produce results in less than 30 minutes. The test itself takes just a few minutes. If your test comes back positive for influenza, your doctor can begin treatment to reduce your symptoms and prevent them from worsening.

Flu Test Accuracy and Results

During an influenza outbreak, a positive rapid flu test is likely to indicate an influenza infection. 

It’s important to note that rapid tests vary in their ability to detect flu viruses, depending on the type of test used, and on the type of flu circulating. Rapid tests also appear to be better at detecting flu in children than adults. This variation in the ability to detect viruses can result in some people who are infected with the flu having a negative rapid test result, known as a false-negative test result. Regardless of the result of your test, your provider may diagnose you based on your symptoms and clinical judgment.

Flu Tests from Baptist Health

If you’d like to learn more about flu tests or need to schedule an appointment to get one, visit a Baptist Health Urgent Care Clinic using the link above, or find a Baptist Health provider today.

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