Rapid Influenza Antigen (Nasal or Throat Swab)
Does this test have other names?
Rapid influenza diagnostic test, RIDT
What is this test?
This test quickly checks for signs of the influenza viruses A and B in a sample of
secretions from your nose or throat.
Influenza—or the "flu"—is an illness of the respiratory system. Influenza A is more
common and can be more serious than influenza B. It spreads easily through water droplets
in the air from coughs or sneezes of people who are infected. It often affects many
people at the same time during fall and winter.
Symptoms of the flu often appear suddenly, about 1 to 4 days after you are infected.
Most people will recover from the flu within a few days to less than 2 weeks, but
those with a weakened immune system may develop severe pneumonia or other serious
Your healthcare provider can test for the flu in several ways. This test usually gives
results quickly. Immunofluorescence is another test and uses a staining technique.
Results from these tests are not as accurate as viral cultures, yet another type of
influenza test. But these tests are faster and easier and are commonly used for initial
You don't always need an influenza test for your provider to diagnose the flu. Healthcare
providers may make the diagnosis and begin treatment based on your symptoms and a
Why do I need this test?
You may need this test if you have symptoms of the flu to find out whether you have
influenza A or B virus. Symptoms of the flu include:
Even if you don't have symptoms, you may need this test during flu season or an influenza
outbreak if you:
What other tests might I have along with this test?
Your healthcare provider may also order other tests, including an immunofluorescence
antibody test, viral culture, or reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction.
Testing for influenza antigens is considered a screening test. Your provider may use
more accurate tests if he or she thinks the diagnosis needs to be confirmed.
What do my test results mean?
Many things may affect your lab test results. These include the method each lab uses
to do the test. Even if your test results are different from the normal value, you
may not have a problem. To learn what the results mean for you, talk with your healthcare
Normal results are negative, meaning that no signs of the virus were found and that
you don't have the flu. But the results of this test should be interpreted with caution
because rapid influenza antigen tests may have a significant number of false-negative
results. This means that you may have the flu.
A positive result means that signs of the virus were found and that you may have the
flu, especially if other cases of the flu have been reported in your area at the time
you are tested.
It's possible to get a false-positive result, meaning that you aren't really infected.
Your healthcare provider may order more tests if he or she needs to confirm this.
How is this test done?
This test requires a sample of mucus or other secretions from your nose or throat.
Your doctor will use a sterile swab to collect the sample.
Another way of taking a sample requires a nasopharyngeal aspirate (NPA). In this procedure,
a healthcare provider will inject saline solution into your nose and then collect
Does this test pose any risks?
You may feel discomfort or gagging sensations when your throat or nasal cavity is
swabbed. Collecting an NPA may also be uncomfortable.
What might affect my test results?
If you have another respiratory infection, you may get a false-positive result.
How do I get ready for this test?
You don't need to prepare for this test.