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Can I buy an at-home coronavirus test kit?
The FDA authorized two in-home tests, but only one is available to the general public.
Updated . What changed?
We’ll continue updating this page as new details emerge in the world’s response to COVID-19.
As the coronavirus sweeps through the US, many private companies have been promoting kits that allow people to test themselves for the virus. But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only authorized two at-home diagnostic testing kits for the coronavirus as of May 18, 2020.
Your ability to buy these at-home tests comes down to your risk factors and the severity of your symptoms.
What's in this guide?
- Has the FDA authorized at-home coronavirus testing kits?
- What other options do I have to get tested for COVID-19?
- Why can’t everyone get a coronavirus test?
- How does the coronavirus test work?
- How does the coronavirus antibody test work?
- When will at-home coronavirus tests be readily available?
- Bottom line
Has the FDA authorized at-home coronavirus testing kits?
Yes, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EAU) to two at-home coronavirus testing kits as of May 18, 2020: LabCorp’s Pixel nasal swab kit and Everlywell’s COVID-19 test home collection kit. However, only LabCorp’s kit is available to purchase by the general public so far. You can read our review of the LabCorp Pixel at-home coronavirus testing kit to get the lowdown on how it works.
What other options do I have to get tested for COVID-19?
Until at-home testing kits become more readily available, you’ll need to visit a doctor to get tested for the coronavirus. And even then, not everyone who’s exhibiting symptoms can get a test.
To determine whether you should take the diagnostic test, your doctor will assess your risk factors, such as your age, health, occupation and recent travel history. If you’re presenting with no symptoms or have minimal risk factors, you may not have access to a test.
Typically, people who fall into these categories can get a coronavirus test, according to Johns Hopkins:
- Experiencing severe symptoms — such as a high fever or difficulty breathing
- Living with preexisting health conditions — like diabetes, heart disease or chronic lung or kidney disease
- Undergoing immunosuppressive therapy — this mostly applies to transplant patients or those with autoimmune diseases
- Working at a healthcare facility — where you’re exposed to patients with the virus
Where can I get tested for COVID-19?
You can get the coronavirus test at a medical clinic or hospital. There are drive-through testing locations around the country, too — but you may need to make an appointment, meet specific criteria and get a referral from a doctor.
Does health insurance cover the coronavirus test?
Yes, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a law that requires private health insurers to cover diagnostic testing for the coronavirus until the state of emergency is over. And the federal government will reimburse providers for the cost of testing for uninsured Americans.
Why can’t everyone get a coronavirus test?
In short: Testing can’t keep up with demand. The test is time-consuming, and the results take several days. Some areas in the US don’t have enough tests, while others have imposed very narrow guidelines, according to Johns Hopkins.
For now, tests are being prioritized for those showing symptoms or at high risk if they contract it.
What if I can’t get a COVID-19 test?
If you can’t get a test but suspect you have COVID-19, call your healthcare provider for tailored advice. Most people who contract the virus experience mild symptoms and can recover at home, according to the CDC.
To speed up your recovery, follow these steps as laid out by the CDC:
- Self-isolate for at least 14 days
- Stay hydrated and focus on resting
- Separate yourself from other people in your home — and if that’s not possible, wear a cloth face covering
- Avoid sharing household items with others
- Practice good hygiene
- Monitor your symptoms — if you’re having trouble breathing or experiencing pressure in your chest, seek medical attention
How does the coronavirus test work?
It’s similar to a flu test. The doctor puts on protective clothes and a mask, and inserts a swab into the patient’s nose to reach the nasopharynx — which is where your respiratory tract meets the back of your mouth.
The process can be uncomfortable, but only lasts a few seconds. The doctor then packages the samples and ships them to a laboratory to be tested for traces of the coronavirus that cause COVID-19.
If the test is positive, the doctor must report the results to both the patient and the public health authorities, according to Johns Hopkins.
Can saliva be tested for coronavirus?
Only one test from Rutgers University has received emergency approval from the FDA. But the FDA says patients who test negative should confirm their results with a backup testing method, according to NBC News.
For context, the standard approval process usually takes months or years. The FDA can speed up the process by issuing “emergency use authorizations,” which is what happened with LabCorp and Everlywell.
How does the coronavirus antibody test work?
Antibody tests can determine whether a patient has previously been infected with the coronavirus.
Officially called “serological tests,” these tests scan the blood for antibodies — which are proteins produced by the immune system to fight off the virus.
However, these tests are still in development. Cellex is the only company with an FDA-approved serological test — but it’s not approved for at-home testing.
When will at-home coronavirus tests be readily available?
The LabCorp Pixel at-home coronavirus test is now available to the general public — though you’ll need to take a quick four-question survey to see if you’re eligible to purchase it. And Everlywell plans to open its kits up to the general public by the end of May — you can sign up to receive updates on its website.
While a string of other companies have been advertising coronavirus test kits, including Nurx and Carbon Health, don’t be fooled: The FDA hasn’t authorized these other tests yet. It also bars the use of any unauthorized at-home test kits, warning that “fraudulent health claims, tests and products can pose serious health risks.”
How to spot a fraudulent test
Unless you’re buying the LabCorp Pixel or Everywell at-home coronavirus testing kits, any others are considered fraudulent. For the most up-to-date advice, check the FDA website.
Currently, only two at-home coronavirus testing kits have been cleared for use by the FDA. Otherwise, only medical clinics, hospitals and private laboratories can administer coronavirus and antibody tests. While there are a number of other at-home test kits in development, the FDA hasn’t authorized these yet.
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. Otherwise, stay on top of changing news about the coronavirus.
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