At-Home COVID Test Kits: Everything You Need to Know About At-Home Testing
Covid-19 isn't going anywhere. BA.5 is the most contagious variant so far, and it is sweeping the nation like wildfire.
Although we all know the importance of getting tested for COVID-19 when we think we have been exposed to the virus, there’s no denying that getting a thorough PCR test at a hospital is quite the burden on time and energy.
Under certain circumstances, if you have a severe illness like COVID-19, it could be detrimental to your health. If you have difficulty breathing or have bluish lips, you should get medical attention immediately. In less severe cases, you may experience run-of-the-mill COVID-19 symptoms like congestion, dry cough, high fever, body aches, and a loss of taste or smell.
Regardless of your vaccination status, you can still get viruses and pathogens. If you suspect you have covid symptoms, it might be a good idea to visit your healthcare provider for medical attention, prevention techniques, and guidance. While you can get tested and receive a diagnosis of COVID-19 from your healthcare provider, home collection kits are now available.
Over-the-counter at-home COVID test kits are being made publicly available. In some cases, they are even free through a special reimbursement program. While at-home tests are convenient, a negative test result can still happen even if you have the virus.
This raises the question: Are these at-home COVID tests really accurate and reliable, and can they tell you if you have COVID-19?
Today, let’s take a deep dive into at-home COVID test kits. By the end, you'll know whether you can trust these tests to keep you and your family safe.
What Are Rapid At-Home COVID Tests?
At-home COVID tests are relatively recent offerings and are now available over the counter at locations like certain pharmacies. These testing kits come in compact boxes and usually cost about $25 for a pair of tests.
Each box will include everything you need to perform a complete rapid COVID test for two people.
In a nutshell, at-home COVID tests are designed to further increase COVID safety throughout the country. You can use these tests to roughly determine whether you have contracted COVID-19 and, therefore, whether you should visit family or should get checked into a hospital.
However, at-home tests are not necessarily as reliable or accurate as tests you can get at a medical center. They’re intended to bridge the gap for people who may not get a clinical COVID test but still want to ensure they aren’t putting their friends or family members at risk.
How Do Home Testing Kits Work?
There are several different COVID tests available in both at-home and clinical varieties. Instead of directly measuring for other factors, at-home tests are antigen-based.
Antigen-based COVID tests check for COVID-19 antigens in a saliva or mucus sample. The majority of at-home COVID-19 tests use nasal swabs. Most of them require you to take one or two cotton swabs, then insert them into your nostrils a fair distance. You withdraw these swabs and apply the mucus to a testing solution. Then you can observe how the solution reacts, comparing the results with a result card included in the at-home test box.
If your at-home COVID test shows positive results, it's always recommended that you get a more sensitive PCR test or another laboratory test to confirm its result. Those who receive a positive result should start isolating and socially distancing while wearing a mask to avoid spreading the virus to anyone else.
Other at-home COVID tests, like the Sensiva React Test, don’t require nasal swabs whatsoever. Instead, they use saliva samples. So they’re more comfortable and easier to take than most other at-home tests.
Regardless, you should get your results within 15 minutes instead of waiting between one or two days. More in-depth clinical tests use nucleic acid amplification, like PCR tests.
Are At-Home COVID Tests Accurate?
Yes, but only up to a point. At-home COVID-19 tests are less sensitive and, therefore, less accurate than PCR tests. As a result, there is a minor but still non-negligible chance that they may miss the signs of an infection and give a test taker a negative result when they actually have COVID-19.
Because of this, individuals who rely on at-home COVID tests may wish to take both tests included in an at-home test box over a few days. Take one test when you get the box, then take another test a few days later. If both tests return a negative result, the odds of them both being wrong are much lower.
Can You Rely on a Home Testing Kit?
Although clinical or PCR tests are more accurate, you can rely on at-home COVID tests to some extent. This is doubly true if you have already been vaccinated either partially or fully, especially if you have received a COVID booster shot.
When you are vaccinated, your immune system learns to identify the COVID-19 virus. While it doesn’t prevent the virus from infecting your system, it significantly improves how quickly your immune system can respond and may cause any COVID infection to be minor or even irrelevant.
Because of this, it’s less likely that vaccinated individuals will spread COVID-19 to others, even if the virus temporarily and minorly infects them. If you’ve already been vaccinated and don’t have the time to get a clinical test, an at-home COVID test could be a great middle-ground. At-home tests allow you to fulfill your social duties without having to fully adjust your schedule as you did during the middle of the pandemic.
Where can I find tests?
Providers like FlowFlex™ offer instant COVID testing kits. The FlowFlex™ Covid-19 Antigen Home Test is a rapid antigen test like other at-home COVID tests. It essentially works like this:
- It takes a sample of respiratory specimens from the test-taker.
- The samples are put into an “extraction buffer/reagent.”
- The extraction buffer tests to check for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antigens.
In other words, they can tell you if you are actively infected with COVID-19 up to a very narrow margin of error. More specifically, the FlowFlex™ test checks for COVID’s nucleocapsid proteins or N antigens. This test is very quick to take, and you’ll get results within three minutes.
Perhaps most important, this at-home COVID test is made in the USA and is registered with the FDA. It has been tested for efficacy and is accurate with up to 99.9 percent specificity and 98.7 percent sensitivity. You can take this test anywhere at home and anytime it is convenient for you.
As you can see, at-home COVID-19 tests like The FlowFlex™ Covid-19 Antigen Home Test testing process much easier for all of us to stay safe and healthy, even as the pandemic continues. You no longer have to take time out of your busy schedule or visit a hospital to get tested for COVID. With tests like this, you can check for COVID at home and take necessary precautions if you receive a tentatively positive test result.
If you receive a positive test result and are diagnosed with the COVID-19 infection, this means you should practice social distancing with self-isolation and rest up until your symptoms subside. Let's keep each other safe throughout the pandemic, so consider getting an at-home COVID-19 test to stay prepared during covid times.
In addition to home testing kits, we have masks or supplements too. Check out Hope Health’s online store today!
Rapid At-Home COVID Tests: What You Need to Know | University of Columbia