Breaking News – you can now order 4 free at-home tests from the covidtests.gov site. (see below)
Home COVID tests that you can buy over-the-counter have been available for over two years now.
So why is it so hard to find one when you or your kids are sick and need to get tested?
At Home COVID Tests
Even though there are now many more types of home and OTC rapid COVID tests, it can still be hard to find these tests for one simple reason – high demand during COVID surges.
“The deliveries of tests from manufacturers to the U.S. government will begin over the next week or so. Americans will start receiving free tests in the coming weeks. We will set up a free and easy system, including a new website, to get these tests out to Americans.”White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients
Being able to order free tests from the US Government will hopefully help satisfy that demand!
“Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests are completely free. Orders will usually ship in 7-12 days.”COVIDtests.gov
That ‘new website’ is now up and running at COVIDtests.gov.
Until you order and get your home COVID test from that new website, try and get your hands on whichever home COVID test you can, especially if you don’t have access to testing from your health care provider, a pharmacy, or clinic. After all, they have been all been authorized by the FDA to detect SARS-CoV-2, even if they are not formally FDA approved.
You should also know that:
- home COVID tests are rapid antigen tests, so are not as accurate/sensitive as molecular or PCR tests
- if your home COVID test is positive, then you have COVID and you should isolate yourself for at least 10 days (although there are some new options to end isolation early).
- if your home COVID test is negative, understand that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t have COVID… It really only means that the “the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in your specimen.” While it may also mean that you don’t have COVID, it could also be a false negative. If you were recently exposed or your symptoms just started, stay in quarantine and test yourself again in a few days. Or consider getting a molecular or PCR test.
- while most at-home tests are done using a nasal swab, some experts think that with the Omicron variant, doing both an oral swab of the throat and a nasal swab will give more accurate results. That is not how these tests were authorized by the FDA though. Home throat swabbing is also not easy to do by most people. To get the most accurate results, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and maybe don’t test on the first day or two of your symptoms. While you remain in isolation, wait for the viral load to increase in your nose and then test yourself. Of course, seek immediate medical attention if you develop severe symptoms at any point.
Home COVID Collection Kits
In addition to at-home tests, many types of home collection kits are available, in which you collect your sample at home, but then mail it to a lab for testing.
In fact, the FDA has authorized at least 63 home collection kits for COVID, including some that can be done on saliva samples!
Unfortunately, these home collection kits are also in short supply…
Fake COVID Testing Kits
Not surprisingly, fake at home tests are also a thing!
Make sure that you buy an FDA authorized at home test, which includes the:
- BD Veritor At-Home COVID-19 Test by Becton, Dickinson and Company
- BinaxNow COVID-19 Antigen Self Test by Abbott Diagnostics
- BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test by Abbott Diagnostics
- BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card 2 Home Test by Abbott Diagnostics
- CareStart COVID-19 Antigen Home Test by Access Bio, Inc (marketed as on/go by Intrivo…)
- Celltrion DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Home Test by Celltrion USA, Inc.
- CLINITEST Rapid COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test by Siemens Healthineers
- COVID-19 At-Home Test by SD Biosensor, Inc
- Ellume COVID-19 Home Test by Ellume Limited
- Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test by ACON Laboratories, Inc
- iHealth COVID-19 At-Home Test by iHealth Labs, Inc
- InteliSwab COVID-19 Rapid Test by OraSure Technologies, Inc.
- QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test by Quidel Corporation
- QuickVue At-Home COVID-19 Test by Quidel Corporation
- SCoV-2 Ag Detect Rapid Self-Test by InBios International Inc.
Is your at-home COVID test not on the list?
Check the FDA for the latest list of authorized home COVID tests.
And be on the watch for fake at-home tests.
What to Know About Home COVID Tests
For now, while we wait for more at-home tests, if you need to get tested, look for a COVID test wherever you can, whether it is with your healthcare provider, a local pharmacy or community clinic, an at-home test, or a test you collect at home and then send to a lab.
Your local or state health department might also be a good source for community testing and home collection kits.
And if you can’t find a test and think you might have COVID, just stay home in isolation and assume you have COVID.
What else can you do?
More on COVID Tests
- Get All of Your COVID-19 Questions Answered
- COVID-19 Vaccination Questions and Answers
- FDA – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Additional OTC Home Test to Increase Access to Rapid Testing for Consumers
- FDA – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Updates Test Policies to Help to Ensure Accuracy and Reliability of Tests and Increase Access to At-Home Tests
- FDA – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Antigen Test as First Over-the-Counter Fully At-Home Diagnostic Test for COVID-19
- CDC – Self-Tests for COVID
- CDC – COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know
- FDA – Coronavirus Disease 2019 Testing Basics
- Press Briefing by White House COVID-19 Response Team and Public Health Officials
- FDA – SARS-CoV-2 Viral Mutations: Impact on COVID-19 Tests
- How to avoid buying fake COVID tests online
- Rapid nose swab tests for COVID may not detect Omicron quickly enough -expert says
- Some things to know about COVID rapid tests
- Can you fool a COVID rapid test by putting Vaseline in your nostrils?
- The COVID-19 PCR Test Is Reliable Despite the Commotion About Ct Values
- When A Negative Doesn’t Really Mean Negative: Why Quality Matters Just As Much As Quantity When Testing For COVID-19
- When should I be tested?
Last Updated on January 19, 2022 by Vincent Iannelli, MD