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The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and COVID-19, the disease it 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-testing kits a person may consider using, and when to see a doctor.

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 for severe illness, and for some, the disease proves to be fatal.

Symptoms of COVID-19 typically develop 2–14 days after exposure to the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that common symptoms of the disease include:

  • fatigue
  • fever
  • sudden loss of taste, smell, or both
  • cough
  • difficulty breathing
  • body or muscle aches
  • headache
  • sore throat
  • runny nose
  • congestion
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting

It is important to remember that many other diseases and conditions can cause symptoms similar to COVID-19. Home tests can rule out that a person has the disease at the time of testing.

Additionally, some people with COVID-19 might be asymptomatic, meaning they do not show any symptoms, but they can still spread the disease. This is why physical distancing and other public health measures, including home coronavirus testing, are vital.

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

People with COVID-19 can be contagious for up to 2 days before symptoms appear and stay contagious for 10–20 days after, depending on how sick they are and the strength of their immune system.

For people who need an at-home coronavirus test, the following have received Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

LetsGetChecked Coronavirus Test (COVID-19)

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

The LetsGetChecked home coronavirus 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, known as reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and transcription-mediated amplification (TMA).

To take the test:

  1. A person uses a cotton swab to collect a sample from their lower nasal passage.
  2. They then place the sample in a vial that comes with the test.
  3. They can send the sample to the company’s lab using an enclosed next-day shipping label.
  4. Upon receipt of the sample, lab specialists use diagnostic tests to look for the coronavirus.
  5. Tests results are usually available 1–3 days after receiving the sample.

After people receive their test results, medical staff provide support to individuals if required. The LetsGetChecked at-home coronavirus test sends users a receipt they can use to seek reimbursement from their medical insurance provider.

Everlywell COVID-19 Test Home Collection DTC

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

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

Lab 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 Everlywell COVID-19 Test is eligible for coverage from a Health Saving Account or Flexible Saving Account. The company website states that some insurance plans may reimburse the cost. However, Everylywell does not currently participate in Medicare, so Medicare will not usually authorize their tests for reimbursement.

Picture by Fulgent Genetics COVID-19 test

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 they can arrange overnight shipping on request. Individuals test themselves with a nasal swab that they then return to the company with the kit’s prelabeled envelope.

Digital results are usually available within 48 hours of the company receiving the sample. Additionally, 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 participate with any medical insurers, but a person may check with their plan provider to confirm coverage and reimbursement options.

Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 Self Test at Walmart

This COVID-19 test from Abbott is a rapid antigen self-test that detects a protein from SARS-CoV-2.

The kit contains two types of tests that both consist of 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’s NAVICA app. It takes approximately 20 minutes to receive test results.

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

While Abbott’s BinaxNOW COVID-19 test may not be eligible for insurance coverage, it costs around a quarter of the price of several other tests.

In general, a person should contact a healthcare professional if they develop any of the COVID-19 symptoms 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. Doctors and healthcare providers can also advise on quarantine or isolation measures while individuals await their results.

However, home testing may not suit those considered high risk, such as those with chronic diseases or people who smoke. In these cases, individuals should consider contacting their doctor as soon as they experience symptoms.

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

Health experts designed these tests to be simple and straightforward for people to use. As such, they 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 Medical News Today. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved them unless otherwise indicated.