What we know about At-Home Covid-19 tests

There are now several at-home testing options for COVID-19. This includes home collection kits that are then sent to a lab for analysis, as well as some new rapid tests where you get your results at-home within minutes.

As with other antigen tests, a small percentage of positive and negative results from this test may be false. Therefore, for patients without symptoms, positive results should be treated as presumptive positive until confirmed with another test as soon as possible.

This assumption is especially necessary if there are fewer infections in a particular community as false-positive results may be more common when antigen testing is used in populations where COVID-19 is low (low prevalence).

“The FDA reminds patients that all tests can experience false-negative and false-positive results. Individuals with positive results should self-isolate and seek additional care from their health care provider. Individuals who test negative and experience COVID-like symptoms should follow up with their health care provider as negative results do not preclude an individual from SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

Recent approvals for Covid-19 at-home tests should provide welcome relief for healthcare systems while supporting contact tracing efforts.

These kits are based on a self-collected nasal swab and test units, providing results in 30 minutes. Similarly, other recently approved Covid-19 at-home tests use a test unit that flows antibodies over a self-collected nasal swab to detect Covid-19 antigens. Both tests are more than 90% accurate, but still carry risks of false negatives and false positives.

How to get a COVID test at-home

Home kits generally cost between $25 and $150 and can be found at some drug stores and retailers.

Kits are supplied by several major lab companies, including LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics, and P23 Labs. You register the kit online with the testing company, grab your own nasal swab, and ship it quickly. Test results are received online, via email, or by text message within 24 to 48 hours of receiving the test at the lab.

Reporting your COVID Test Results 

The CDC recommends that you communicate your results as soon as possible to your family doctor or healthcare provider. You should also inform your relatives and close friends with whom you have had recent contact.

In addition, communicating your results to your healthcare provider will ensure that they, as those responsible for reporting, send the information about your test results to the state health department.

If the at-home test has an app that allows you to report your results to the state health department, inform your healthcare provider about whether you used that app for results reporting.

During the first 24 hours, you should monitor your temperature without taking medications that will reduce your fever (for example, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium, aspirin). See CDC’s: Isolate if You are Sick.

What to do if your at-home test is negative

A negative result means that COVID-19 was not found in your sample.

If you tested while experiencing symptoms and followed all instructions carefully, a negative result usually means that your current illness is not COVID-19.

However, it is possible for a test to be negative in some people who have COVID-19 (that is, a false negative). Discuss your symptoms and test results with your healthcare provider to determine if you need follow-up tests.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, especially if you have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, you should self-quarantine according to the CDC’s recommendations.

If the result shows an error or is invalid

The test did not work properly if the at-home test screen shows an invalid result or a test error. If your test shows an invalid result or a test error, see the instructions for use in the package insert and contact the manufacturer for assistance.