What to Know About At-Home COVID Tests
If you show COVID symptoms and want to get tested but don't want to deal with the hassle of setting up an appointment and the wait in the clinic. An at-home COVID test can be a convenient solution. But how do you use them, and who is available to use them?
Coronavirus self-test, also known as over-the-counter tests and home tests, is one of many ways to reduce the chances of spreading the virus, and it helps you protect yourself and others. These tests can be taken at home or anywhere, regardless of whether you have symptoms or vaccination status. It is easy to use and will get quick results.
According to the CDC, self-tests detect current COVID infections but not the antibodies to the virus as of November 2021. Everyone should have at least 2 home tests for every family member, said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.
"If you have symptoms or were substantially exposed to someone with COVID-19, you should go get a PCR test. That's the gold standard," Wen said. "The at-home antigen tests should be used, ideally, when you are asymptomatic and the likelihood of you having COVID is pretty low, but you're using it for assurance purposes."
"Think about the at-home rapid test as a screening test ... for public health purposes, not a diagnostic test," Wen added.
Wen said that buy tests are only authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration. The agency has a list of more than 40 FDA-authorized home tests on its website. Some of the tests have age limitations, so pick one that's appropriate. You can buy at-home tests in pharmacies, online, and some retail stores. It can be challenging to get the at-home test depending on your location.
According to the CDC, some local health departments or Federally Qualified Health Centers offer the tests for free. Make sure to check the expiration date when you buy self-tests.
It is recommended to use the self-test before joining a big gathering with people you don't live with. This is important if you plan to be around unvaccinated older adults, children, or people who are most at risk of contracting the virus. Of course, use it when you have COVID symptoms or are exposed to someone with COVID.