Need an At-Home COVID Test? Here’s Help Finding and Using One

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News Picture: Need an At-Home COVID Test? Here's Help Finding and Using OneBy Dennis Thompson HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 10, 2022 (HealthDay Now)

The surge of the Omicron variant throughout the US has left folks scrambling to search out at-home COVID-19 check kits.

“Checks are in brief provide, there isn’t any doubt about it, due to the sheer quantity of individuals wanting and needing to get exams,” mentioned Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief government officer of the Nationwide Affiliation of County and Metropolis Well being Officers. “The demand is excessive and we would like folks to check. The issue is we would like them to have the ability to get it.”

The enchantment of at-home exams is evident — you’re in command of the method. You acquire the pattern, often by swabbing the within of your nostril, and within the case of speedy exams you carry out the lab work at your personal desk or counter. Often you may get outcomes inside minutes.

This is what it is advisable to find out about how these house exams work, the place you possibly can search for them, and when it’s best to make use of them.

Which exams can you’re taking at house?

There are two major kinds of COVID-19 tests you possibly can administer at house — antigen exams and PCR exams.

Antigen exams are those thought-about “speedy” exams, as a result of they return leads to below an hour. They search for proteins on the floor of the coronavirus that provoke an immune response out of your physique.

There are greater than a dozen U.S. Meals and Drug Administration-approved antigen exams. Common manufacturers embrace Abbott’s BinaxNOW, Quidel’s QuickVue, OraSure’s IntelliSwab, BD Veritor’s At-Dwelling and the Intrivo On/Go.

PCR exams search for the precise genetic materials of the virus. They’re extra correct than antigen exams — in some instances, too correct — however when you take a pattern your self at house, you often need to both drop it off at your physician’s workplace or mail it to a lab to get outcomes. It might take one to a few days to listen to again.

Frequent manufacturers of PCR exams embrace LabCorp’s Pixel, DxTerity and Everlywell.

How correct are they?

Fast antigen exams are pretty correct, particularly you probably have COVID signs, as a result of at that time you may have excessive ranges of detectable virus in your physique. A optimistic check not solely means that you have COVID, however that you just’re extra more likely to be contagious.

“They’re nice at answering the query, ‘Is it protected to be round me?'” mentioned Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar with the Johns Hopkins Heart for Well being Safety in Baltimore.

Antigen exams usually tend to return a false damaging if you happen to’re contaminated however have not but developed signs. However at that stage, “you probably have such a small quantity of virus, you are not more likely to be very contagious to others,” famous Dr. William Schaffner, medical director of the Nationwide Basis for Infectious Ailments.

In search of certainty? PCR exams are thought-about the “gold customary” for detecting and diagnosing COVID, however they’ve their drawbacks as effectively.

PCR exams are so correct that they will detect the genetic materials of outdated coronavirus particles in your physique, lengthy after you are effectively and all of the stay virus inside you has been eradicated.

“The PCR check can proceed to be optimistic for a considerable time frame, actually weeks,” Schaffner mentioned. “It is not likely an excellent check for getting you out of isolation.”

There have been considerations that some antigen and molecular exams may not be capable of detect the Omicron variant in addition to prior COVID variants. The FDA has noted this concern, however continues to be investigating.

The place are you able to discover a check?

Antigen exams are bought over-the-counter and can be found at pharmacies, big-box shops like Walmart and Goal, and on-line retailers like Amazon.

Nevertheless, as many shoppers have discovered, the Omicron surge is inflicting spot shortages of the exams. “It is not all the time accessible at each pharmacy that you just go in and need to purchase it,” Schaffner mentioned.

Earlier than running out to the pharmacy, you may need to first name your physician’s workplace or neighborhood well being middle to see if they’ve any speedy exams readily available, Freeman advised.

“If you’re a affected person at a neighborhood well being middle or a rural well being middle, your finest wager goes to be to contact your supplier and people exams needs to be accessible at these facilities,” Freeman mentioned.

You additionally ought to test together with your native well being division, to see if check kits are being handed out wherever in your neighborhood. For instance, “there are libraries, no less than in my space, which have been distributing free exams as effectively,” Freeman famous.

President Joe Biden has promised to make 500 million check kits accessible to Individuals, on prime of these already accessible for buy. The Washington Submit reported Friday that the White Home is finalizing plans to begin transport the kits by mid-January, together with an internet site that will enable folks to request a speedy check.

Within the meantime, monitoring websites like, HotStock, ZooLert and BrickSeek have added COVID house exams to their record of sizzling merchandise accessible by on-line retailers.

As with N95 respirators and different COVID-linked provides, patrons must also be cautious of pretend merchandise. The FDA maintains a list of approved antigen tests; attempt reviewing that record earlier than shopping for.

How a lot will you pay? A two-pack of speedy antigen exams has price as little as $14, however retailers like Kroger and Walmart have began elevating costs following the lapse of a 2021 take care of the White Home to promote the exams at a diminished charge. Checks like BinaxNow can be found for round $24 at pharmacies and shops, and about $20 at Walmart.

Worth-gouging can also be on the rise, nonetheless: CBS Information reported Monday that some on-line websites are actually charging double or triple for tough-to-find check kits.

Biden has mentioned that insurance coverage corporations pays for at-home testing starting in January, however the particulars of how that will work haven’t been introduced but.

When do you have to check?

You should not use an at-home speedy antigen to check your self instantly after you have been uncovered to COVID, specialists say. Even you probably have been contaminated, the virus most likely hasn’t had an opportunity to duplicate itself to detectable ranges.

“The exams are most correct whenever you’ve developed signs, as a result of that is when you may have essentially the most virus in your throat,” Schaffner mentioned. “Many individuals after what they assume is an publicity run out the subsequent day or the day after and do the check. Properly, the check is just not more likely to be optimistic at that time. It is too early.”

As a substitute, the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention advocate that folks with out signs who’ve been uncovered to COVID get a PCR check, which may detect even minute quantities of virus in your physique.

Antigen exams ought to primarily be used to just be sure you’re protected to be round earlier than touring or attending a gathering or occasion, even when you do not have signs, specialists mentioned.

“Antigen exams are wonderful instruments for figuring out if somebody has sufficient viral shedding to contaminate another person, so are very helpful as screening instruments for asymptomatic people eager to know their standing earlier than social interplay,” Adalja mentioned.

Schaffner mentioned he and his prolonged household relied closely on house testing throughout the holidays. They’re all vaccinated and boosted and all put on masks, however the exams supplied added reduction for his or her household gatherings.

“We determined the morning of Thanksgiving and the morning of Christmas for all of us to do a speedy check. We had been all damaging,” Schaffner mentioned. “That reassured us in order that once we did get collectively, we determined to take off our masks. That gave us a further degree of assurance and a few consolation that we might do this safely.”

Antigen exams can be utilized to assist determine in case your signs are COVID, however you must observe up the house check with a extra correct PCR check, specialists mentioned.

Understand that you continue to may get a damaging check even if you happen to’ve obtained COVID with signs. “If one is sick, a damaging check ought to immediate repeat testing, extra formal testing and analysis for different causes of signs,” Adalja mentioned.

The CDC doesn’t advocate that folks take a check earlier than rising from quarantine, and for good purpose, Schaffner says. Both the antigen or the PCR check can provide a false consequence that will both maintain you in quarantine whenever you’re effectively or lead you to not take correct precautions whenever you’re nonetheless infectious.

“Most individuals would really like an specific yay or nay reply. Life is extra difficult than that,” Schaffner mentioned. “That is why the CDC did not tack on testing as a means so that you can get out of both isolation or quarantine — as a result of they knew in regards to the limitations of the exams.”

Extra info

The U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention has a COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool that may assist you determine when and the way to get examined.

SOURCES: Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief government officer, Nationwide Affiliation of County and Metropolis Well being Officers; Amesh Adalja, MD, senior scholar, Johns Hopkins Heart for Well being Safety, Baltimore; William Schaffner, MD, medical director, Nationwide Basis for Infectious Ailments


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