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Can I buy an at-home coronavirus test kit?
The FDA authorized several in-home tests — find out how they work and where you can buy one.
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 a handful of at-home diagnostic testing kits for the coronavirus as of June 3, 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 several at-home coronavirus testing kits as of June 3, 2020, including kits by LabCorp, Everlywell, Vault, Vitagene and Hims & Hers.
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?
Aside from purchasing one of these at-home testing kits, you can also 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?
Yes, the FDA has recently granted emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for a few saliva coronavirus testing kits, including ones by Vitagene, Hims & Hers, and Vault. For context, the standard approval process usually takes months or years. But the FDA can speed up the process by issuing these EUAs.
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?
At-home coronavirus tests have become more readily available — with at least five companies offering these kits to the general public as of June 3, 2020.
However, do your research before purchasing any at-home COVID-19 testing kit to ensure it’s received authorization for use by the FDA. The agency 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
Check that the company has an official emergency use authorization for its at-home coronavirus testing kit from the FDA — most have a link to the FDA authorization on their website. For the most up-to-date advice, check the FDA website.
A handful of at-home coronavirus testing kits have been cleared for use by the FDA. But if you’re hesitant to try out these at-home test, only medical clinics, hospitals and private laboratories can administer coronavirus and antibody tests.
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, contact your healthcare provider. Otherwise, stay on top of changing news about the coronavirus.
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