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Do New, In-Home COVID Tests Work? Here’s a Look.

April 22, 2021

The do-it-yourself, at-home, no-prescription-required COVID-19 tests have arrived.

The results of these tests, which require a fluid sample using a nasal swab, are often not as accurate as a test performed by healthcare professionals. (Here are Hartford HealthCare’s test locations.) Alert your primary care provider if you feel COVID-19 symptoms and listen to your body as much as the test, says Dr. Ulysses Wu, Hartford HealthCare’s System Director of Infection Disease and Chief Epidemiologist.

Anyone feeling sick enough to have a test – symptoms include headache, body aches, fever and fatigue – should self-isolate while waiting for the test results, too.

“The antigen test depends on the timing, it depends on the symptoms. People shouldn’t rely on a negative test if there is a high suspicion that they have COVID,” says Dr. Wu, noting that the virus takes time to incubate so repeat testing might be needed for the most accurate results.

A negative result shouldn’t be a signal to ignore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended precautions.

“I go home, I stick something in my nose and the test comes back negative,” says Dr. Wu. “I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m good to go party, take my mask out, go out to eat.’ That’s not the way it works.

As always in the pandemic, practice physical distancing, avoid crowded places (especially indoors) and wear masks around others.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved several over-the-counter tests under emergency use authorization. To use the at-home COVID-19 tests, be sure to read and follow the instructions, washing your hands and disinfecting the area before handling the swab and getting the sample.

Here’s a snapshot look at three at-home COVID tests available to consumers:

BinaxNOW COVID-19 Self Test

Test Type: Antigen, which identifies specific virus proteins.

Accuracy: When done properly, the tests are considered reliable. But because of the risk of a false-negative result — you could have an infection even if the test indicates otherwise — your doctor might recommend a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test performed by a professional.

“The antigen tests rely on the timing, depends on the symptoms, so we shouldn’t rely on a negative test,” says Dr. Wu, “if we have a high suspicion (the patient) has COVID.”

How the test works: Fluid sample retrieved using a short nasal swab.

Results: Within 15 minutes.

Cost: $23.99.

Available: Abbott, the manufacturer, started shipping the tests this week to CVS, Walmart and Walgreens. Also available online.

Pixel by Labcorp Home Collection Kit

Test Type: Polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, the type of test used at Hartford HealthCare test locations across the state. This method, also called a molecular test, detects the virus’ genetic material.

Accuracy: These tests are most accurate when performed by a healthcare professional. The rapid tests can miss some positive cases.

How the test works: Insert a swab into your nose to take a fluid sample.

Results: Usually within two days.

Cost: $119.99

Available: CVS.com.

Everlywell COVID-19 Home Collection Kit

Test Type: PCR.

Accuracy: Everlywell promises 95 percent accuracy.

How the test works: Nasal swab inserted into the lower nostril.

Results: Available by phone or computer, sometimes within 24 hours.

Cost: $109 (Possibly refunded by your medical insurance. Check first with your provider)

Available: Everlywell.com