Medical

Best Home COVID-19 Tests

Here's a round-up of some of the best COVID-19 tests on the market today.

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Testing for COVID-19 is recommended if you have symptoms or were exposed to the virus, before attending a large gathering and before and after travel. But since the first at-home COVID-19 test was authorized in 2020, pandemic recommendations from health agencies have changed, and so have the way we view COVID-19 tests. So which test should you use?

The best answer might be the one that's available to you, or the test you can get for free. The Biden administration announced this week that households can now order a third round of rapid COVID-19 test kits, broadening the availability of different rapid home tests.

Typically, at-home COVID-19 tests are antigen tests, which work by detecting pieces of protein from the virus that causes COVID-19. That's why false negatives on rapid antigen tests may be more common with people who have lower viral loads (like those who've been fully vaccinated and boosted), and why you're encouraged to take another test a day or so later if you still feel sick. But if you get a positive result on a home COVID-19 test, you should consider yourself infected and follow the isolation guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Even if they aren't as good at detecting asymptomatic COVID-19 as molecular or PCR tests, they're still recommended for omicron and its subvariants, which are causing a rise in COVID-19 cases. (One preprint study found that popular at-home COVID-19 tests on this list worked just as well as picking up COVID-19 caused by the omicron variant compared to the delta variant.)  

Here's a round-up of the best, most straightforward COVID-19 tests on the market right now. 

Navica on the App Store
  • Where to buy it: CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, HEB, Sam's Club, Walmart, Amazon 
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Get results in: 15 minutes

The BinaxNOW COVID-19 test is a rapid antigen test that provides results within 15 minutes at home. The kit comes with two tests so you can retest 24 to 48 hours later, which is what the CDC recommends if you've been exposed to COVID-19 or think you have it.

This test was also one of three (along with QuickVue and BD Veritor) found to be effective at detecting omicron in a March preprint study. While newer, more contagious versions of omicron have emerged since, the study offers a little peace of mind. 

FlowFlex
  • Where to buy it: CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, Target, FlowFlex
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Get results in: 15 minutes

While the FlowFlex antigen test is a one-test-per-box package, it's sold at a lower $10 price. Like many home tests, results come within minutes after you swab both nostrils and properly follow all instructions. (Make sure your FlowFlex test is FDA-authorized, and not a counterfeit test

QuickVue/Amazon
  • Where to buy it: Walgreens, CVS, Amazon, HyVee 
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Get results in: 10 minutes 

A box of QuickVue comes with two rapid COVID-19 tests, so you can take a test before you leave town for the holidays and then again before you gather with family or friends. 

Amanda Capritto/CNET
  • Where to buy it: LetsGetChecked.com
  • Symptom screening: Yes
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Return-ship with: UPS drop-off or scheduled pickup 
  • Get results in: 3 days after the lab receives your sample

If you want lab-level accuracy without a doctor's visit, this might be the test for you. The swab sample is sent to a laboratory and the analysis will include either PCR testing or transcription-mediated amplification. While lab tests like this one from LetsGetChecked are pricier than your standard rapid antigen test, you can feel more secure in their accuracy.

Vitagene
  • Where to buy it: Vitagene.com
  • Collection method: Saliva sample
  • Return-ship with: FedEx drop-off
  • Get results in: 3 days after the lab receives your sample

If you don't like nasal swabs (or if you have a child who doesn't like things being put in their nose) a test like Vitagene that tests for COVID-19 using a saliva sample may be right for you. Simply order your kit, follow the collection instructions by producing a saliva sample and send back your test.

Sarah Tew/CNET
  • Where to buy it: Walmart, Amazon, CVS, Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Get results in: 10 minutes

You can't go wrong with your standard two-pack of rapid antigen tests (which you may have also received free in the mail from the government). If you'd like proof of your negative COVID-19 test result prior to an indoor gathering, for example, the iHealth test is one of the home tests that has an app you can pair your results with. 

On/Go
  • Where to buy it: On/Go, Best Buy, Walmart
  • Collection method: Nasal swab
  • Get results in: 10 minutes

On/Go tests have the classic swab, swirl, repeat collection method of rapid antigen tests, but you can buy these tests on On/Go's website in bulk -- up to 160 tests or 80 boxes. As Healthline reports, this may be ideal for people who have to test frequently for work. Two tests (one box) are $24. 

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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.