We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19, the disease that this virus causes, spread quickly throughout the world. Public health measures, such as physical distancing, are essential for stopping the spread of infection. Medically approved home testing can also be a valuable tool in helping end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here, we look at COVID-19, some home test kits a person may consider using, and when to contact a doctor.

Quick links

The SARS-CoV-2 virus, responsible for causing the disease COVID-19, appeared in late 2019. It quickly spread and led to a pandemic, with the disease affecting many people across several countries.

Human responses to COVID-19 vary greatly. While some people have mild cases and few or no symptoms, others become very sick and may require hospitalization.

Individuals with underlying medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and lung issues, may be at greater risk of severe illness, and for some, the disease proves to be fatal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of COVID-19 typically develop 2–14 days after exposure to the virus.

Common symptoms of the disease include:

However, this list does not include all COVID-19 symptoms. It is also important to remember that many other diseases can cause symptoms similar to those of COVID-19. Home tests can rule out that a person has the disease at the time of testing.

Additionally, some people with a SARS-CoV-2 infection might not show any symptoms, but the virus can still spread to others. This is why physical distancing and other public health measures, including at-home coronavirus testing, are vital.

As of January 15, 2022, insurance providers must reimburse the costs of over-the-counter (OTC) COVID-19 tests during the public health emergency.

Some insurance companies may pay for COVID-19 home tests straight away, while others may require a person to fill out a form requesting reimbursement.

For those without insurance, there are over 20,000 federally supported free testing sites across the United States. Moreover, the U.S. government has stated that it will provide further access to free tests at community sites, such as health centers and rural clinics.

In addition, anyone — regardless of their insurance status — can order four free COVID-19 tests directly from the government. People can expect to receive their tests 7–12 days after ordering.

The CDC states that people may need to take a home test if they show symptoms of COVID-19 or come into contact with someone who has tested positive, and cannot access a healthcare professional or public testing site.

According to the CDC, the virus can spread to others for up to 2 days before a person experiences symptoms, and it may continue to spread for 10–20 days after, depending on the severity of the disease and the strength of the person’s immune system.

A person may consider several factors when looking for an at-home COVID-19 test. These include:

  • Certifications: Some companies work with laboratories that follow the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA). This means that they have federal certifications and are open to regular inspections. A person can also check whether the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the tests.
  • COVID-19 variants: Product pages include information on whether the test kits can detect newer COVID-19 variants, such as Omicron.
  • Results: Most brands issue results within 3 days. People who need rapid tests may wish to choose a brand that offers results within 30 minutes.
  • Consultations: Some companies offer a free consultation for individuals who wish to discuss their results with a healthcare professional.
  • Instructions: Companies should provide people with clear and easy-to-follow instructions. Some companies may also provide step-by-step videos on their websites.
  • Testing method: A person can choose to purchase saliva, nasal, or saliva and nasal swab tests.
  • Collection method: Some tests require people to collect their sample at home and mail it to the provider’s laboratory. However, some companies stock self-tests that issue results within a few minutes and do not require individuals to mail the sample to a testing facility.

For people who need an at-home COVID-19 test, the following have received emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA.

Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.

LetsGetChecked Coronavirus Test (COVID-19)

  • Best for: nasal testing
  • FDA EUA: available to view online
  • Type of test: lower nasal swab
  • Number of tests: one
  • Results time: within 1–3 days after receiving the sample
  • Price: $109

Learn more about LetsGetChecked here.

This test checks for the presence of genetic material from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The test uses nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) that amplify the virus’s genetic material to make it easy to detect.

The company uses two different types of NAATs: reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and transcription-mediated amplification (TMA).

To take the test, a person needs to do the following:

  1. Use a cotton swab to collect a sample from the lower nasal passage.
  2. Place the sample in a vial that comes with the test.
  3. Send the sample to the company’s CLIA-certified laboratory using the enclosed next-day shipping label.

Upon receipt of the sample, laboratory specialists use diagnostic tests to look for the coronavirus. Test results are usually available 1–3 days after receiving the sample.

Once people receive their test results, medical staff provide support to individuals, if required.

LetsGetChecked sends users a receipt they can use to seek reimbursement from a medical insurance provider, if they have one.

LetsGetChecked Coronavirus Test (COVID-19) costs $109.

Everlywell COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit DTC

  • Best for: free consultation
  • FDA EUA: available to view online
  • Type of test: lower nasal swab
  • Number of tests: one
  • Results time: within 1–3 days from receiving the sample
  • Price: $109

Learn more about Everlywell here.

This Everlywell home COVID-19 test involves a lower nasal swab to look for the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 using RT-PCR.

A person needs to collect their samples between Monday and Friday and take them to a designated shipping location on the same day they do the test.

Laboratory specialists analyze the sample, and board certified physicians review the results, which they usually send to a person digitally within 24–48 hours. If the result is positive, individuals can receive a free telehealth consultation.

The company website states that the test does not detect new variants.

This Everlywell test is eligible for coverage from a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending account (FSA).

The company website states that some insurance plans may reimburse the cost. However, Everlywell does not currently participate in Medicare, so Medicare will not usually authorize Everlywell tests for reimbursement.

Everlywell COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit DTC costs $109.

Picture by Fulgent Genetics COVID-19 test

  • Best for: fast shipping
  • FDA EAU: available to view online
  • Test type: nasal swab
  • Number of tests: one
  • Results time: within 2 days after receiving the sample
  • Price: $119

This home COVID-19 test is an RT-PCR test that looks for genetic material of the virus.

A person should receive their kit within 2 days, although the company advises it can arrange overnight shipping on request. Individuals test themselves with a nasal swab that they then return to the company with the pre-labeled envelope included in the kit.

Digital results are usually available within 48 hours of the company receiving the sample. A person may also arrange to speak with a healthcare professional from the company’s partner PWNHealth.

In the event of a positive test result, the PWNHealth Care Coordination Team will normally reach out to the individual and arrange for a consultation with a doctor.

Picture does not collaborate with any medical insurers. However, if a person has a plan provider, they may check with the provider to confirm coverage and reimbursement options.

Picture by Fulgent Genetics COVID-19 test costs $119.

Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test at Walmart

  • Best for: fast results
  • FDA EAU: available to view online
  • Test type: nasal swab
  • Number of tests: two
  • Results time: 20 minutes
  • Price: $19.88

This COVID-19 test from Abbott is a rapid antigen self-test that detects a protein from SARS-CoV-2. It also detects COVID-19 variants, including Delta and Omicron.

The kit contains two types of tests, both of which are a nasal swab. A person carries out each test within a 3-day window and at least 36 hours apart.

The test works in conjunction with Abbott NAVICA app. It takes approximately 20 minutes to receive test results.

Individuals can purchase this test in store or on the Walmart website, where shipping is typically available. Tests are also available through other local retailers and healthcare professionals.

Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Antigen Self Test costs $19.88. The company also accepts FSA and HSA payments.

Pixel by Labcorp COVID-19 Test

  • Best for: free test for those with COVID-19 symptoms
  • FDA EAU: available to view online
  • Test type: nasal swab
  • Number of tests: one
  • Results time: 1–2 days after receiving the sample
  • Price: free for those with COVID-19 symptoms, or $119

Learn more about Pixel by Labcorp here.

This at-home test uses a nasal swab. Once a person collects their sample at home, they need to send it back to the company. Then, the company will test the sample and issue a result within 2 days.

A person can view all test results in their Labcorp OnDemand account. Additionally, a free clinician consultation is available for people with positive or invalid test results.

Pixel by Labcorp states that COVID-19 variants, such as Delta and Omicron, do not affect the accuracy of this test.

The company also offers this test for free to those who:

  • are experiencing mild symptoms of COVID-19
  • have had exposure to COVID-19
  • live or work in a congregate setting
  • have been asked by a healthcare professional, contact investigator, or public health department to test

Pixel by Labcorp COVID-19 Test costs $119 for individuals who wish to take it for reasons related to travel or school, for example.

Vitagene COVID-19 Saliva Test Kit

  • Best for: saliva test
  • FDA EAU: available to view online
  • Test type: saliva test
  • Number of tests: one
  • Results time: within 72 hours after receiving the sample
  • Price: $89

This test uses a saliva sample. Once a person orders and receives their test kit, they need to register it online with the company.

Vitagene offers on-screen instructions on how to take the test. After a person has collected their sample, they need to mail it to the company’s CLIA-certified laboratory. Independent doctors who are board certified will evaluate and assess a person’s test.

Individuals will receive their results within 72 hours of the company receiving the test sample.

Vitagene COVID-19 Saliva Test Kit costs $89. The company also accepts HSA and FSA payments.

Ellume Home Test at Walmart

  • Best for: travel and events
  • FDA EAU: available to view online
  • Test type: nasal swab
  • Number of tests: one
  • Results time: 15 minutes
  • Price: $34.99

This at-home rapid test uses a nasal swab. Ellume has a free COVID-19 test app that a person can download on a phone. It offers video instructions to help an individual perform the test.

People can expect to see their results within 15 minutes of taking the test.

Ellume states that this test is most suitable for individuals who require rapid testing for travel and events.

The company states that newer COVID-19 variants do not affect the product’s accuracy.

Ellume Home Test costs $34.99.

The FDA issued a Class I recall for false-positive tests in November 2021 for this company. However, Ellume has removed the recalled products from shelves, and the company will contact those who may be at risk of a false-positive test result.

DxTerity COVID-19 Testing at Walmart

  • Best for: employee screening
  • FDA EAU: available to view online
  • Test type: saliva test
  • Number of tests: one
  • Results time: within 72 hours of receiving the sample
  • Price: $85 for single-use tests; bulk discounts available for companies

This test uses a saliva sample. The company states that the test is highly sensitive.

Once a person collects their sample at home, DxTerity will analyze the sample in its own laboratory. A person can then view their test results through the company’s secure portal within 72 hours of the company receiving the sample.

Additionally, employers can opt for the company’s screening program and pay a reduced price for bulk purchases.

DxTerity COVID-19 Testing kit costs $85.

InteliSwab COVID-19 Rapid Test at Walmart

  • Best for: testing the whole family
  • FDA EAU: available to view online
  • Test type: nasal swab
  • Number of tests: two
  • Results time: 30 minutes
  • Price: $24.99

This rapid test requires a nasal swab. After a person has collected the swab from the nose, they need to gently swirl the swab into the tube. They will then receive their test results within 30 minutes.

The company states that this test is easy to use. Also, the convenience of a rapid test may make this product suitable for testing family members, including children.

Additionally, this rapid test may be suitable for people who wish to travel or attend events.

InteliSwab COVID-19 Rapid Test costs $24.99 for two tests.

In general, a person should contact a healthcare professional if they develop any of the COVID-19 symptoms we listed above.

This is vital to help determine their next plan of action, including going to a testing site or arranging an at-home coronavirus test. Healthcare professionals can also advise on quarantine or isolation measures while individuals await their results.

However, home testing may not suit individuals considered to be at high risk, such as those with chronic diseases or people who smoke. In these cases, a person should contact a doctor as soon as they experience symptoms.

Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about COVID-19 home tests.

How accurate are at-home COVID-19 tests?

The CDC states that people will most commonly get a positive or negative COVID-19 test result.

A positive test result means the test has detected the presence of the virus, and a person is likely to have an infection.

The CDC recommends that people who get a positive test result isolate at home for 10 days, wear a face mask, and avoid indoor gatherings to prevent the virus from spreading.

A negative test result means the test has not detected the presence of the virus, and a person may not have an infection. However, a negative test result does not mean a person does not have COVID-19. The CDC recommends repeating the test with at least 24 hours between tests to increase the accuracy of the test results.

In rare cases, self-tests may show an invalid result. This may mean that the test kit is not functioning properly or that an individual did not correctly collect their sample. If a person receives an invalid test result, they should contact the manufacturer for assistance and discuss any next steps.

The FDA also explains that tests can produce a false-negative or false-positive result. It recommends that people who receive a positive result self-isolate and contact a doctor for further advice.

Those who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and receive a negative test result should also contact a healthcare professional for further testing.

How long should I wait to test for COVID-19 after exposure if I received full vaccination?

The CDC recommends different steps. These depend on whether a person has:

  • not received vaccination
  • had two vaccines
  • received a booster vaccine

For people who have come into contact with COVID-19 and have not received vaccination, have had two doses of the mRNA vaccine more than 6 months prior, or had the Johnson & Johnson vaccine more than 2 months prior, the CDC recommends quarantining for 5 days, with a further 5 days of wearing a face mask.

Individuals who have received a booster dose do not need to quarantine. However, they should wear a face mask for 10 days after the exposure, to reduce the likelihood of the virus transmitting to others.

The CDC recommends that people of all vaccine statuses undergo COVID-19 testing 5 days after exposure.

Does insurance cover COVID-19 tests?

As of January 15, 2022, insurance companies must reimburse the cost of OTC COVID-19 tests. Some companies may pay the total cost up front, while others may require a person to fill in a form for reimbursement.

Additionally, people without insurance can receive free tests from over 20,000 federally supported sites across the U.S.

Regardless of their insurance status, a person can also receive four free COVID-19 tests directly from the government.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, pose serious health challenges. At-home coronavirus testing — along with other public health measures, such as vaccination and physical distancing — plays a vital role in controlling the spread of the virus.

Health experts designed these tests to be simple and straightforward for people to use. As such, these tests can provide important and actionable information for private and public health.

Please note: Medical News Today does not imply warranty of fitness for a particular purpose or endorse any of these applications. These apps have not been evaluated for medical accuracy by MNT. The FDA has not approved them unless otherwise indicated.