At the beginning of the pandemic, getting a COVID-19 test was a tall order, appointments were hard to get, there were long lines at designated sites, and you sometimes had to wait days for results. Fortunately (or unfortunately because we are still in the pandemic), now tests are much easier to come by, including over-the-counter take-home COVID tests. President Biden announced last week that three major retailers: Walmart, Amazon, and Kroger will sell at-home tests at cost, making it much cheaper for consumers. Other retailers will likely carry the tests but at a higher price.
While insurance companies won’t cover the cost of at-home kits, this is great news for families who want to avoid urgent care offices or emergency rooms, but want to test their children.
What At-Home Tests Are Available?
There are currently three at-home COVID tests available to purchase. Three antigen tests are available now and one molecular test will be available soon. All tests have been approved by the FDA for emergency use authorization.
- BinaxNow – Rapid Antigen Test
- Ellume – Rapid Antigen Test
- Lucira – Rapid Molecular Test (sign up to get an alert when it is available to purchase)
- QuickVue – Rapid Antigen Test
What is the Difference Between an Antigen and Molecular Test?
Antigen tests are a bit simpler than molecular tests in that they simply detect the presence of the proteins that are present in the SARS-CoV-2 virus within the sample. False negative results are common, and even false positive results are more common than with molecular tests.
Molecular tests are able to detect if the SARS-CoV-2 virus is present and are considered to be more accurate.
When Can I Use an At-Home COVID Test?
Although not typically accepted for travel to a destination that requires a negative test, or other activities that require one, the take-home test is a great option for personal use and decision-making. If you are flying domestically, it might be a good idea to take one to ensure the safety of yourself and everyone on board. If you are going somewhere that requires you to get tested upon arrival, you can take one beforehand to avoid any surprises when you arrive.
If you are planning a road trip somewhere and want to make sure you are negative before heading out, a take-home test is a perfect way to ease your mind. If you have a child attending school or daycare, and they get sick, rather than dragging them to urgent care or the doctor, this is another, easier option. Some people are stocking up on tests to have on hand for when they have guests, which is perhaps a good option with the holidays coming up.
How Do At-Home COVID Tests Work?
At-home tests are fairly easy to use. You get test results in less than a half-hour, without having to send them to a lab for testing or waiting for your results online. The collection kits come with detailed instructions on how to swab your nose.
The Ellume test has an app that guides you through the process and displays your test result after fifteen minutes. It is also accepted for international travel when you use Azova to set up an observational video with a professional.
With BiNax Now, you use an eyedropper to add a chemical to your test card, you then use a nasal swab the inside of your nose, put the swab in the card, and wait fifteen minutes for results. Somewhat like a pregnancy test, one line means negative, two lines mean positive.
Lucira also has you swab your nose, swirl it in a tube of chemicals, and click it into a battery-operated “station” which, within a half-hour, will display your test results.
QuickVue is similar to Lucira in that you swab your nose, and swirl it in a tube of chemicals. However, you then place a test strip in the tube, which will show the result.
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