As RSV, Influenza and a new pair of Omicron subvariants are quickly spreading in the U.S., experts are warning of an upcoming COVID-19 wave this winter. Many of us recall last year’s surge in COVID cases during the colder months that tend to see more people heading indoors. Now with the arrival of winter and our winter travel swiftly approaching, people are taking extra precautions this year to stay safe against the expected rise, including taking COVID-19 tests at home.

It is still important to take personal protection measures, even after we have gained some reassurance with vaccines and boosters. At-home rapid tests have become widely accessible with some even being available for free. Each test is only good for one use, so if you’re traveling or have plans to gather with friends after work, you may be looking for more. Right now, Amazon has a FDA-Authorized Antigen Rapid Test that is in stock, on sale, and available for next-day delivery.

Amazon

The iHealth COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test works like any standard at-home kit and displays results in 15 minutes. Inside the box, you’ll get nasal swabs, vials of solution, and test cassettes to clearly read your results. Recommended for people aged 15 years and older, it’s one of the easier tests to use.

$18

2 TESTS PER PACK

$45

5 TESTS PER PACK

This easy-to-use test is a 15-minute self-test that can be completed in the comfort of your own home without the need to ship your sample to a lab. Instructions are included for the 4-step test and there’s a helpful instruction video on Amazon as well. Do keep in mind though, COVID-19 rapid tests are not always 100% accurate because the virus can take a couple of days to show up in your system. If you test negative and still don’t feel well or think you were exposed, you may want to test again later or visit a clinic.

Stocking up on at-home Covid tests isn’t cheap, but insurance companies are required to cover eight FDA-approved over-the-counter Covid-19 tests per month. Even if your insurance provider considers an iHealth test from Amazon to be out of network, you can still be reimbursed for up to $12 per test.

This guide is to help you understand all the at-home test basics — the who, what, when, where and why of testing for COVID-19 at home.

Where can I get at-home COVID-19 test?

The best site to search for in stock at-home COVID-19 testing kits is findacovidtest.org. The site allows you to search current availability by brand, retailer and test type.

Search for Tests

On/Go via Amazon

On/Go’s testing kit comes complete with two tests and offers a digital record of your test results via a user-friendly app that can guide you through the testing process. This rapid antigen test is currently $20 off and in stock on Amazon.

$40$20

Walmart

This rapid antigen test from Abbott contains two nasal swabs, for two tests to be conducted within about three days of each other. Results from each swab are promised in 15 minutes. Authorized for ages 2 and up.

$20

Lucira via Amazon

This is one of the few PCR at-home tests available online. It is more sensitive to pathogens, making its accuracy comparable to what you’d get at a testing site. Lucira’s Check It COVID-19 test is a molecular test that uses a nasal swab to produce results in 30 minutes or less. The kit contains one test. Authorized for ages 2 and up.

$75$35

Walgreens

Quidel’s QuickVue is a rapid antigen test that contains two nasal swabs, for two tests, to be used about two to three days apart. It promises results in about 10 minutes. Authorized for ages 2 and up.

$24 AT WALGREENS

What is an at-home COVID test, and what kinds of at-home COVID tests are there?

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An at-home COVID-19 test is one you can take in the safety and comfort of your own home, on your own timeline. You read the instructions; collect the sample (a nasal swab, usually); and wait for the results on your own.

There are two kinds of at-home COVID-19 tests: molecular and antigen.

A molecular test usually involves a nasal swab (but sometimes saliva). The Lucira Check It COVID-19 Test Kit is a popular at-home molecular test.

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An antigen test usually involves a nasal or throat swab, and is commonly known as a rapid test. The BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test is an example of a leading name in this at-home category.

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Antigen tests can get you results in as little as 10 to 15 minutes. An at-home molecular test, per the FDA, can deliver an answer in close to an hour or less.

Which at-home COVID-19 test is easiest to use?

Phil Walter/Getty Images

Not all COVID-19 tests are created equal. If you do have a choice when shopping for an at-home test, it’s a good idea to consult some experts.

In December 2021, healthcare non-profit ECRI evaluated a number of the most popular at-home COVID-19 testing kits — including BinaxNOW, BD Veritor, CareStart and Flowflex — for ease of use.

The group found that the Intrivo Diagnostics On/Go test was the easiest to use (score: 82.9), followed by AccessBio’s CareStart (80.8) and the Flowflex (79.5) test.

“If you have a choice, it’s better to get a higher-rated test,” the ECRI report concludes.

You can check the stock of the top-rated COVID-19 antigen test below.

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Do you have to have COVID symptoms to take an at-home COVID test?

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Generally speaking, there are molecular and antigen at-home tests that’ll work for you whether you have COVID-19 symptoms or not. But the answer may vary depending on a test’s authorization, so read your label.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers plenty of resources and recommendations on who should test, when to test, how to test and what to do if your test result is positive — or negative.

Will my at-home COVID test be covered by insurance?

Bloomberg/Getty Images

Effective January 15, 2022, private insurance companies were required to reimburse for over-the-counter COVID test kits. Up to eight tests are allowed per month, per person covered. The requirement, issued by the Biden administration, covers all at-home COVID-19 tests covered under the emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (The emergency use authorization status of a test is typically located on its box.)

Tests purchased prior to January 15 do not qualify. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck. Tests ordered on referral of your healthcare provider and tests ordered by your healthcare provider may still be covered. Contact your own insurance company for more information about your policy and what it covers.

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