Whether you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 like fever, cough or runny nose, or you’ve been exposed to someone who has the virus, being able to conduct a test at home to determine whether or not you have COVID-19 can be extremely useful.
Using an at-home COVID-19 rapid test allows you to learn whether you have the virus or not without the need to travel to a testing center. This type of rapid testing can reduce your exposure to others, limiting your chances for passing on the virus.
“Having COVID-19 testing more widely available will help identify more cases – and rapidly identifying those who are potentially infectious (and making sure they are self-isolating) can help reduce the spread of COVID to others,” said Dr. Nick Gilpin, Beaumont’s director of infection prevention.
A negative test result can provide you, your friends, colleagues and family with peace of mind. A positive test result can provide you with vital information regarding your health. It alerts you to the need to self-isolate at home until you get better and puts you on guard for worsening symptoms that may require medical help.
Where to Get a COVID-19 Home Testing Kit
COVID-19 self-testing kits can be purchased at many retailers and pharmacies across the country. Free coronavirus tests have recently been made available by the federal government. Each household may order four tests to be delivered directly to your household.
There are two ways of being tested at home for the coronavirus:
- Home collection kits allow you to collect a sample that is sent to a lab for analysis, and these give you results within a few days.
- Home testing kits, or rapid tests, provide you with results in just a few minutes without the need to send your sample to a lab.
Over the course of the pandemic, the FDA has authorized several COVID-19 at-home testing and collection kits for individual use. It’s important to purchase a test kit that has been approved for use in the U.S. to get the most reliable results.
How to Use a Coronavirus Testing Kit
Most self-testing kits are relatively easy to use, but it’s important to read and follow all the instructions correctly. If you don’t conduct the test properly, you risk getting inaccurate results.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before starting the test.
- Only use each testing kit once.
- Make sure the test is not expired.
- Read your results within the appropriate time frame.
When to Test
Home test kits perform best when you have active symptoms of the virus. However, they can be used regardless of vaccination status for both people experiencing symptoms and those who have been exposed to COVID-19.
“The best use of at-home tests is for people who are symptomatic,” Dr. Gilpin said. “Most of the at home tests are antigen tests, which are slightly less accurate than PCR tests, but when used in a person with symptoms of COVID (like fever, chills, runny nose, cough, etc.), the results are quite reliable.”
If you aren’t experiencing symptoms and get a negative result, it’s possible that it’s a false negative and you have the virus. This is most common if you test too early after exposure. Many at-home COVID-19 testing kits come with more than one test so you can retest a few days later if needed.
“It’s important to avoid testing too soon in a post-exposure situation,” explained Dr. Gilpin. “For example, if you are exposed today, it doesn’t make sense to get tested tomorrow – that’s too soon. The better recommendation is to wait a few days before testing but continue to monitor for symptoms. And anyone who develops symptoms that could be consistent with COVID (fever, body aches, cough, etc.) should get tested.”
Many experts agree that being able to test for the virus at home could be integral to helping us end the pandemic. Always consult with your doctor if you are concerned about your symptoms and stay safe by protecting yourself and your family.
Should I report my at-home test results?
Most public health officials encourage you to report your at-home test results to your local or state health department. It helps provide better information about where the virus is spreading in the community.
All FDA approved home tests are required to have a mechanism for reporting your results to the manufacturer, who is required to report any results they receive to health departments. You can also call your local health department or the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to report.
Ordering your free at-home COVID tests
- Visit covidtests.gov
- Click the Order Free At-Home Tests button
- Enter your Contact Information
- Click the green Check Out Now button
Note: Every home in the U.S. is eligible to order 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests. Orders will usually ship in 7 - 12 days.